LAKE PLACID - When the National Sports Academy boys hockey team hits the ice next season, Tom Lenox will be behind the bench as the Mountaineers new head coach.
After a search that attracted more than 75 potential candidates from across the United States, Canada and Europe, the Lake Placid-based prep school and Lenox agreed on a contract on April 18, a month after the team ended its season as the International Junior Hockey League super elite division champion.
Lenox will be leaving his home in Faribault, Minn. to coach the Mountaineers. He will replace Rod Simmons, who has headed the NSA boys team since 2009 and is moving on to start a junior hockey program in Lake George.
Lenox has been involved with all levels of hockey for more than 20 years, and said he looks forward to moving to Lake Placid. In an interview Wednesday, April 25, he stated a major goal for NSA is to turn boys hockey into one of the elite prep school programs in the United States, much like the Mountaineers girls team has done during recent seasons.
"I have known about NSA for quite a while," Lenox said. "It's a program that intrigues me because of the mystique of Lake Placid when it comes to hockey. There's always been a draw to Lake Placid for me ever since I listened to the 1980 (Miracle on Ice) game on the radio from my home in Minnesota.
"If you are going to look for an area that's a pinnacle for hockey in the United States, it's Lake Placid," Lenox added. "Our goal is to try to make NSA a premier program on the national level for producing college hockey players."
Lenox has traveled extensively during his involvement with the game, which includes scouting, coaching, player development and operations management ranging from the junior levels, to college and the pros. Among the players Lenox has coached are the sons of Mark Johnson and Bill Baker, who played for the gold-medal winning 1980 U.S. Olympic hockey team.
Curiously enough, Lenox said Lake Placid is one place that he has never visited in person.
"It's one of the few places in North America that I haven't been to, but I know it's a special place," Lenox said. "I grew up in a small northern town in Minnesota, and I'm sure there are similarities. I know hockey is a big deal there."
"Coach Lenox is a proven recruiter with a great eye for talent," NSA hockey director and head girls team coach Bill Ward said this week in a press release. "He is an intellectual with a strong work ethic and a passion for the game of hockey."
After the Mountaineers posted a 41-3-5 mark during their recently completed IJHL schedule, which could arguably be described as the team's easiest campaign in a while, Lenox would like to up the level of competition for the program. He said possibilities would include entering the team in the annual Shattuck St. Mary's and Culver tournaments, as well as scheduling games against other top prep school and junior teams.
"Shattuck is a hockey factory, Culver is right up there, and we want to compete with the Shattucks and Culvers of the world," Lenox said. "We want to do things the right way. Obviously, when you go through change, there's always a level of uncertainty, and those changes don't happen overnight."
Although Lenox said he won't be coming to Lake Placid until May, he's already hit the ground running in terms of recruiting for NSA.
"I just got back from Philadelphia, and I'll be going to Chicago, Denver, North Dakota and Wisconsin," he said. "During the next six weeks, I will be seeing about 2,500 players. I'm already recruiting."
Coach Lenox is married to his wife Donna and has two children, Jack and Charlie, who are 7 and 5 years old.