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MEN'S HOCKEY: Winter glad to be back in Bemidji

Current Bemidji State assistant coach Travis Winter watches the action on the ice during an Aberdeen Wings game earlier this season. Winter, a former BSU captain, was most recently a head coach in Aberdeen of the NAHL but has returned to Bemidji as an assistant. John Davis | Aberdeen American News

Many dedicated Bemidji State University hockey fans might remember Travis Winter on the ice, wearing the captain’s “C” on the green-and-white sweaters in 2009 as he helped lead the Beavers to their first-ever Frozen Four appearance.

Winter finished his hockey career at BSU with 65 points (28 goals and 37 assists) from 2005-09 before graduating in 2009 with a degree in business administration and an emphasis in entrepreneurship, management and marketing.

After playing a handful of games for the minor-league Dayton Gems, the St. Cloud native decided to hang up the skates and pursue his true passion — coaching.

It took five years and two stops in the junior hockey ranks, but now Winter is back in Bemidji — only this time he’ll be behind the bench as an assistant coach for the BSU hockey team.

“It’s a program that’s very near and dear to my heart and it’s nice to be able to come back here and give back to the program that gave me so much,” Winter said. “I’m very excited to come back to Bemidji.”

Winter, 29, will start his collegiate coaching career this fall, taking over for former BSU assistant Bert Gilling. Gilling recently took a position at Mount Royal University in Calgary, Alberta. Winter said when he found out about Gilling’s departure he knew he was interested in coming back to Bemidji.

Winter will join head coach Tom Serratore and assistant Ted Belisle behind the bench this season.

Uniquely, all three assistant coaches were former Beaver hockey captains, which Winter says is another signal that BSU is a special place. Winter played under Serratore, Belisle and Gilling, which was at one point the longest-tenured staff in NCAA hockey.

“It’s a unique thing,” he said. “It’s going to be really nice to be a part of something that special. They were the longest-tenured staff on college hockey. It says a lot about the university and the program, I think.”

Winter spent parts of four seasons as an assistant coach for the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders of the United States Hockey League before being named head coach of the Aberdeen Wings of the North American Hockey League midway through the 2012-13 season.

During his time in Aberdeen, S.D., Winter coached former Bemidji High School players Jordan Heller and Dillon Eichstadt; both will be playing hockey at BSU in the future.

Winter started earlier this month and he said it may take his wife, Stephanie — also a BSU graduate — and daughter Kenadi a few months to get adjusted. Still, he’s excited to get started and continue his hockey career where it started — at BSU.

“The roots of my coaching beliefs stem from Beaver hockey, there’s no question about that,” he said. “I’ve learned some new things along the way i think i can help bring some new ideas to the program too.

“But one thing I can help with right away is I’m not that far removed from the younger generation, from playing. so I’m hoping I really get to know our players and try and help them in that area.”

Jack Hittinger

Jack Hittinger is the sports editor of the Bemidji Pioneer. He is also the Bemidji State beat writer. He hails from the Great State of Michigan. Read his Bemidji State blog at and follow him on Twitter at @Jackhitts.

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