Life in the NHL: Home is where the Hakstols are
From Philly to Toronto to Seattle, Dave and Erinn Hakstol still call Grand Forks their home base
Editor’s note: This is the first of a three-part series on former University of North Dakota hockey coach Dave Hakstol and his success as a coach in the National Hockey League. Next week, Hakstol discusses finding success with the Seattle Kraken last season and some of his memories of UND as a player and coach.
Between the COVID pandemic, the realities of the professional sports world and raising two children, UND alums Dave and Erinn Hakstol have seen many ups and downs the past eight years, but one thing that hasn’t changed is the place they call home.
After 11 years as UND’s head hockey coach — 2004 to 2015 — Dave was named head coach of the National Hockey League’s Philadelphia Flyers, where he served for three full seasons. He then became an assistant coach for the Toronto Maple Leafs for two seasons and has been the head coach of the Seattle Kraken during the expansion team’s first two seasons.
“Since COVID, our family has been ping-ponging all over the place,” Erinn said. “Between our daughter and our son going to school in different places and with Dave in Seattle, I’ve put a lot of miles on Delta the past three years, but everyone’s been happy and our family keeps going. It’s worked out pretty well.”
Dave gives his wife full credit for making it all work.
“She’s the one who makes our family operate,” he explained. “She’s at the center of everything and keeps everything in order and everybody on the right pathway.”
“I view my family as my full-time job,” Erinn added. “I feel like I’m everyone’s secretary.”
When the Hakstols left Grand Forks for Philadelphia, they made a conscious decision to keep the family home in North Dakota.
“Throughout different phases of our children’s lives, we wanted to keep the stability and the feeling of a home base for our family in Grand Forks,” Dave said.
Erinn has family in the area, and her parents have a home in Grand Forks.
“So that enters into it, too,” she said. “We’ve got lots of longtime relationships here.”
So happy together
Because of Canadian restrictions during the pandemic, the Hakstol family couldn’t be together for much of the time Dave was coaching in Toronto.
“Being able to get the kids back to Grand Forks and the Midwest was the best thing for them,” Dave said. “We’ve been apart — living in basically three different spots — as a family for nearly the past three years.”
But by the time the 2023-24 NHL season begins in October, the travel and pace of life should be reduced when Erinn moves to Seattle. Their daughter, Avery, 17, will attend college at Gustavus Adolphus in St. Peter, Minn., and their son, Brenden, 15, will attend Shattuck-St. Mary’s in Faribault, Minn.
“We’ll still have our home in Grand Forks, but we’ll reduce our footprint a little bit and try to reduce the travel time between ourselves,” Dave said.
“It’ll be really nice to live together again,” Erinn added. “In the best interest of the kids, we’ve done what we needed to do, but it will be nice this year to spend more time together.”
She said the Seattle Kraken’s staff have made her and Dave’s move to a new team in a new city relatively easy.
“It actually hasn’t been that difficult of a transition just because the people in the organization have been so welcoming, so fantastic and genuine,” Erinn said. “I’ve enjoyed working with all of them.”
Success in Seattle
Also easing the transition was the success the team enjoyed during Dave’s second year as head coach. The Kraken rebounded from their first season with a winning record and made the playoffs, where they defeated the Colorado Avalanche, the defending Stanley Cup champions, in the first round.
The Kraken then took the Dallas Stars to seven games in the best-of-seven series before being defeated. The team’s dramatic turnaround made Dave one of three finalists for the Adams Award, the NHL’s coach of the year honor.
Seattle had a professional hockey team — the Metropolitans — from 1915 to 1924 in the Pacific Coast Hockey Association. It won the Stanley Cup in 1917 by defeating the Montreal Canadians from the National Hockey Association.
Since then, the city has seen a number of professional, semi-professional and major junior hockey teams come and go. In the 1970s, the city began efforts to acquire an NHL franchise, which finally paid off in 2018 when the league approved the Kraken as a new expansion team.
“The biggest surprise to me was the realization that Seattle had so much fun having professional hockey back,” Erinn said. “For me, one of the best parts about it was just watching how much fun everyone had with it.”
It reminded the couple of the fan support UND’s Fighting Hawks receive from fans in the region.
“UND hockey is special in a lot of ways because of their fan base and the generations of fans that UND hockey has had,” Erinn said. “I hope Seattle builds that as well. The atmosphere at UND in the middle of January, there’s nothing like it. I have to say that Seattle has been fantastic in the same way.”
Building Kraken history
Dave said it will take time for Seattle to build the level of fan support and excitement he and Erinn experienced at UND, but the Kraken are off to a good start in only their second year in the NHL.
“Each community, each city has their own personality,” he explained. “Seattle is obviously a larger city, but it’s still a real tight sports community, and you feel that.
“We felt that here in Grand Forks for the many years we were here,” he continued. “You feel there’s an importance to what you’re doing, not only for the results, but also how you’re doing it in the community and in Grand Forks and the state of North Dakota and beyond.”
Dave said he believes Seattle will establish similar support and traditions.
“We have the opportunity with Seattle, not just to build on history and tradition, but also the opportunity to grow it, to build it from the ground up.
“We’ll personally take pride in growing that history and tradition of hockey in Seattle and the surrounding area of the Pacific Northwest.”
Wherever hockey takes them, the Hakstols know there’s no place like home.