Rick Zombo is the consummate professional in the world of hockey and has been at nearly every level, both coaching and playing. Now this man, who has a self-described “PhD in hockey,” is entrusted with moving Lindenwood University’s program to prominence
Zombo, a native of Chicago suburb Des Plaines, Ill., played more than 10 years in the NHL for the St. Louis Blues, Boston Bruins, and Detroit Red Wings. He recalled that first moment being in an NHL locker room.
“The neatest thing is when you come off the ice from practice and don’t have an Adirondack Red Wings bag but it’s a Detroit Red Wings bag,” said Zombo.
During his playing career he would work at youth hockey camps in the offseason to supplement his income. Through this experience, Zombo started to see what could possibly be a second career.
“I knew I didn’t want to be just a dumb jock,” he said. “I felt that having the right guidance and teaching life skills through this sport I know so well, I can help the most valuable resource, children, through coaching, it was natural.”
Zombo’s hockey career ended after a season with the Los Angeles Kings minor league team. He then pursued coaching. “Coaching is great for me,” Zombo said. “It’s stimulating, whether it’s 10-year-olds or 22-year-olds. It has everything to do with managing people and assisting people to reach their aspirations.”
He eventually ended up at Marquette High School in Chesterfield, Mo. coaching full time and then part time coaching his son.
“It was a big deal having an ex-Blues player,” Marquette alum Brent Alley said. “Being a big hockey fan and a Blues fan, it was crazy to have one of them coach at my high school.”
Eventually, Zombo found himself first as an assistant coach and then as the head coach of Lindenwood’s men’s hockey team. In a short period of time, Zombo would take the program and bring it to an extremely high level in the American Collegiate Hockey Association.
“We have a program that is the top dog in the ACHA,” Zombo said. “Everybody is jealous of Lindenwood hockey, because we have a history. It is not a tradition, we have a history, of success in winning. Everyone aspires to be like Lindenwood University.”
The program is going through a probationary period to see if it will eventually make the jump to NCAA Division I.
“We have two years left in our probation,” Zombo said. “There is a requirement to have an arena on campus to go NCAA, but we’d have no problem filling that arena.” That history of success leads students to be encouraged about a possible move to NCAA.
“They’re a team that wins all the time,” LU senior and hockey fan Scott Milward said. “It would be awesome to see them play closer to home.”
With the passion and expertise that Zombo possesses, there is a legitimate chance to achieve that NCAA status and prove this program belongs at the next level.
“I have a history of being an overachiever,” Zombo said, “I’ve overachieved at every level.”
Perhaps the over-achiever turned LU coach can achieve one of the few things in hockey he has yet to earn, a NCAA head coaching job.
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