ST. CLOUD, Minn. — Dan Jablonic scored five goals in his college career, but there is one that stuck out for him last weekend.
Jablonic played for the University of Minnesota Duluth men's hockey team from 1993-97 was born in St. Cloud, Minn., but grew up in Andover, Minn., and played for Blaine High School.
But when he returned Aug. 1-4 to the Herb Brooks National Hockey Center for the CCM Minnesota Hockey High Performance Dave Peterson Goalie and Shooting Camps, it sparked a memory. Jablonic was the lead instructor for the shooting camp, which had 65 participants.
"I didn't score many goals in college, but my first goal was here in St. Cloud," Jablonic said with a smile. "I remember my dad saying that it was cool that you were born here and scored your first goal here. And my sister actually went to school here at St. Cloud State and lives in the area, so I have some family ties here and it's nice to be back."
Jablonic, 45, is an American Development Model regional manager for USA Hockey and has been based in Illinois since February 2018. Before that, he was the hockey director at the Kettler Capitals Iceplex in Arlington, Va., leading Kettler’s in-house Rooftop program and Caps Academy.
"I was impacting kids in that region, but now I get to do it more on a nationwide scale," he said. "Illinois is my territory. I also help out with the Central District.
"It's my job to work with the associations leaders, the coaches themselves, to make sure that the kids registered with USA Hockey in Illinois are getting what they really should be getting (hockey-wise)."
He is also helping revamp USA Hockey's coaching education program to where it is "based on the learner and activity based, so that they can help build the passion in our players and seek more information through our network of resources."
"Things are great with USA Hockey right now, but we always strive to be a world leader in anything we do," he said. "We can constantly be getting better. With the leadership of USA Hockey, they're making sure that everybody is challenging ourselves to get better and make the experience for each kid is off of the charts (positive)."
Played, coached in Sweden
After Jablonic finished his college career, he played one season of pro hockey for the Birmingham Bulls and Wheeling Nailers in the ECHL. Then he played the next season for Skelleftea AIK in the Division I of the Swedish League.
"I remember flying over there and watching a game before I got to practice and they play on an Olympic sheet of ice and I remember I counted six passes before they crossed the red line," he said. "The red light came on — can I play in this game? Because they were so skilled and so patient.
"They're really about athlete development. It's not just everything being hockey specific."
After that season, Jablonic went back to the United States and worked in information technology before going back to Sweden to be a coach in junior hockey and then as an assistant coach a professional team. He worked in Sweden for five years.
"I had a great job in the IT business in wireless data and I was going back and forth to Sweden in the summers, helping run one of their hockey schools for my old club," he said. "It was the third summer where they said, 'We want you to run our junior program.'
"I was young enough where I thought, 'Do I go money or my passion?' And I made the jump."
Jablonic said the coaches he had growing up helped instill his interest in staying involved in hockey after his playing days were over, even if he wasn't an All-American in college.
"I didn't have a great college career, but I loved playing," said Jablonic, who played in 51 college games after helping Blaine reach the 1992 boys state hockey tournament. "I look back and now I see why I probably didn't have a good college career ... the coach was right.
"The ultimate dream has been to work for USA Hockey and, hopefully, have an impact on a large scale."