BLOOMINGTON, Ill. — The Bloomington Thunder announced on Thursday that Andy Contois has been added to the hockey operations staff as an assistant coach following the promotion of assistant coach Leon Hayward to an NCAA Division I coaching position with Colorado College.
Hayward becomes the second Thunder coach to make it to the Division I coaching ranks, which Bloomington general manager and head coach Mike Watt believes is indicative of having the best possible personnel on staff.
“We’re in this game to promote and develop our players and also our staff, so they can move up and reach their highest goals in the game of hockey,” Watt said. “This is a busy season in hockey. It’s a chance to move guys on. As Leon moves on, Andy moves up.
“We’re really excited for Leon and his family for this great opportunity,” Watt added. “We’re hiring the right people for our organization that are being moved on in this game. Leon is no different. We wish Leon and his family nothing but the best.
Contois joins the Thunder after spending the last two seasons as an assistant coach with the Brookings Blizzard of the North American Hockey League (NAHL). The Marquette, Michigan, native played four seasons of NCAA Division I hockey at Northern Michigan and also boasts 10 years of professional playing experience.
“The opportunity means everything,” Contois said. “It’s part of the process of coaching. You always want to move up. I’m just extremely grateful for the opportunity that the organization has given me and I’m excited to get moving.”
While with Brookings, Contois helped the Blizzard make the playoffs in both the 2015-16 and 2016-17 seasons, just the second and third postseason appearances in team history. The playoff berth in 2015-16 was the Blizzard’s first since the 2012-13 season. Contois then played a key role in Brookings earning a second-straight playoff appearance, as the Blizzard improved nine points on their 2015-16 regular season performance with a 30-win season in 2016-17.
“I had a number of former players and coaches that spoke so highly of Andy,” Watt said of Contois, who made the immediate jump to coaching at a high level after he finished his 10-year professional career following the conclusion of the 2014-15 campaign.
“He’s going to continue on the same path as Leon in this game. We’re excited to have him. His experience in development and attention to detail are second to none. It’s going to help our staff in the future with the program.”
During his four-year career at Northern Michigan, Contois compiled 98 career points in 131 career tilts. After a breakout 36-point junior season that saw him win NMU’s Bill Joyce Top Forward Award, Contois was named an alternate captain for his senior season in 2005-06. He racked up 31 points in 37 games in his senior campaign and went on to win the Jim Mussatto Memorial Endurance/Fitness Award.
“My coaches at Northern Michigan University have been great for me, not only as a player but as I continued on as a pro,” Contois said. “Walt Kyle, Dave Shyiak [were] two guys that I stayed in contact with as I got into coaching and mentored me along the way.”
Following his collegiate career, Contois played 10 years of professional hockey, including four seasons in the ECHL. His best season came in 2007-08 when he registered 54 points in 67 games between the Stockton Thunder and the Mississippi Sea Wolves. He also had a brief stint in the AHL that season, playing one game for the Norfolk Admirals.
Contois then played internationally for seven seasons before retiring after the 2014-15 season, spending time in Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Netherlands, and the United Kingdom. In those seven seasons, he posted 239 points in 242 games. He briefly returned to the United States in the 2010-11 season and helped the Bossier-Shreveport Mudbugs win the Central Hockey League championship.
Contois also brings junior hockey playing experience to his new post. His first season of junior hockey was just down the road from Bloomington in the state’s capital, as the forward notched 31 games in 54 games for the Springfield Jr. Blues. That strong campaign helped Contois move up to the USHL the next season, as he went on to finish second on the Green Bay Gamblers in scoring with 42 points in 55 games in 2000-01.
“It’s the best league in North America as far as development and moving guys on,” Contois said of the USHL. “The guys are hungry. They want to be better. A lot of them want to be pros. That’s exciting for me to work with the cream of the crop and have the opportunity to develop those kids and move them on. They all want to be Division I players and pros. Helping them achieve those goals, that’s what motivates me to come to the rink every day.”
Contois will start his position with the Thunder effective immediately.
About the Thunder
The Bloomington Thunder are a member of the top junior hockey league in the United States, the United States Hockey League (USHL). The only Tier I junior hockey league in the country, the USHL has become renowned for developing the future talent of both Division I college hockey and the NHL. At the start of the 2016-17 season, there were 108 active NHL players who were USHL alumni. In total, there have been 253 USHL players who have gone onto NHL careers, including Patrick Sharp, David Backes, Johnny Gaudreau, and Joe Pavelski, among others. The players in the USHL range in age from 16-20-years-old, 95 percent of whom will go on to play college hockey at the Division I level. For more information, visit bloomingtonthunder.com or ushl.com or download the USHL Mobile App on the Apple App Store or on Google Play.