A locker room full of tall, sweaty men and coaches is where Shane Hicke spent his days as a little boy.
Hockey has surrounded Hicke for his whole life. Ernie Hicke, Shane’s dad, was a professional hockey player and Shane was his right-hand man throughout his career. From a young age, Shane Hicke was able to observe how coaches and general managers ran their teams and decided “that’s all I wanted to do.”
As a child, Hicke was moving around a lot and compared his youth to being like one of an army kids.
His dad played professional hockey for 17 years. He played for the Montreal Canadiens, Oakland Seals, Atlanta Flames, New York Islanders, Minnesota North Stars and the Los Angeles Kings. Shane Hicke’s uncle, Bill Hicke also played in the National Hockey League where he won a Stanley Cup with the Canadiens in 1959 and 1960.
Hicke looked up to his dad in his coaching era. Ernie Hicke got to be a player coach with John Muckler, who was a general manager and coached many Hall-of-Famers. Hicke benefited from his father and got to learn coaching techniques right alongside him.
For 25 years now, Hicke has started and coached multiple different levels of hockey. He began with 13 and 14-year-olds and continued up the chain from Squirts, Pee Wees, Bantams, Midgets, Juniors, Minor Pro and now to the Senior A Reno Ice Raiders.
Ohio is where his coaching career began but Hicke came out to Reno when owners Simon LeBleu and Andrew Peterson asked him to coach for the Reno Ice Raiders. The Ice Raiders were in Vacaville, Calif. from 2015-2021 and known then as the NorCal Ice Raiders. They moved to Reno during the summer of 2021 and now play at the Jennifer M. O’Neal Community Ice Arena.
The Ice Raiders is a hockey club where men can continue playing contact hockey with other talented players. Three years ago was the first year Hicke coached the Ice Raiders; they won the championship so he decided to stay with the team. The second year was even better. The team not only went undefeated, but also won the championship again.
The Ice Raiders are playing top teams from Wisconsin, Michigan, Colorado and Wyoming. Hicke likes playing against these high level teams because not only do the players get to compete, but the fans get to witness great games.
Many of the players currently on the team Hicke already knew and coached them at a younger age.
“It was very fun to come back to see them as young men,” Hicke said standing outside of the Reno Ice rink before the team faced the Santa Rosa Growlers. “Yeah, and not having to deal with their parents anymore. So that was kind of a different thing.”
When it comes to putting together a team, Hicke has contacted former players, players have contacted him and he has brought in others from across the country. Having guys that knew his coaching style was helpful because they already know what is expected from him.
Jeff Jiron is a 37-year-old player on the Reno Ice Raiders. He lives in California and has known Hicke ever since he was in high school. He played on the North Stars his senior year of high school where Hicke was his coach. Jiron also was on the Vacaville Vipers.
“The most memorable experience with Shane was going to Montreal my senior year of high school playing for the North Stars,” Jiron said. “We went undefeated out there. Just had a really good time. He’s been kind of like a brother to me, I would say, always there, you know, bounce ideas off of my game.”
Jiron was close with Hickes dad also. He says that Ernie Hicke is the reason he was able to go so far with hockey. The Hickes would pick him up before school started to do free private hockey lessons where they worked on his shot and transitioned him to learn defense. Their help made it possible for Jiron to play Juniors in Washington.
Jiron is currently a defenseman on the Ice Raiders. He hopes to keep playing for as long as he can and continue to have fun and win more games under Hicke.
“He’s an awesome coach,” Jiron said. “He’s very transparent. If you’re playing bad, he’s gonna let you know. He’s gonna let you know what you need to do to fix your game. And he’s really approachable. If you have questions about your game, or you feel like you’re not, you’re not playing right, you can always talk to him about it to let you know he’s not gonna hide things from him. He’s not going to be very hard on you. He’s just going to point you in the right direction.”
Over the two decades that Hicke has been coaching, he focuses on having patience with the players to understand who they are.
“It works hand in hand,” Hicke said. “I think that me being able to have patience and be able to work with guys and understand you know who they are, you know, in sports psychology is what it is, doesn’t matter if it’s football, if it’s baseball, you either have people that like to play checkers, and it’s just real quick and they don’t think about the next move. Or you have chess people. And chess people are ones that are thinking about the move after the next move.”
Hockey is a sport where players switch out every 35 to 45 seconds so Hicke plays the athletes who are doing well. The coaches are able to see the depth of the players and it gives the team the best chance to win when it is done this way.
The players who play their shift on the ice like it is their last are the ones Hicke admires the most. They bring momentum to their line which helps Hicke determine which line will step skate on the ice more.
“I just want them to be happy, they’re on a winning team,” Hicke said. “They are contributing to the team and create a culture that is unlike any other on the field. And on the ice off the ice.”
When it comes to life outside of the rink, Hicke lives in Phoenix, Ariz. The Ice Raiders support him and fly him up to games and practices.
It was a difficult change for Hicke to be traveling so much with his kid and his job as an operations manager for businesses in Phoenix. COVID-19 also did not help the situation either.
Being a single dad, it was a hard time for Hicke. He got full custody of his son and was court ordered to move to Arizona.
“We went to Arizona, and I just didn’t really get into coaching hockey,” Hicke said. “I want to spend as much time as I can. At that time, my kid was eight and a half years old. So we’ve been together ever since now and he’s 12.”
Grandma and Grandpa have helped with watching the son when Hicke is out of town for games. Sometimes Hicke brings his son with him and he gets to be the stick boy and water boy.
Although Hicke grew up with hockey and pursued it, his son is not very into it. Hicke doesn’t think his mother brought it up to him while being in Canada, even though that is the hockey grounds of the world. The son is playing a little bit when it comes to practices and games, but Hicke isn’t too fond of him actually pursuing the sport.
“I don’t know if he’ll ever play but to be honest with you, I don’t know if I want to put him in that pressure,” Hicke said. “That’d be a hell of a lot pressure for not only him living up to my expectations, but grandpa’s.”
Hicke is known for his great hockey skills but baseball was another sport he shined in. While playing high school baseball in California, Hicke received a scholarship to go to University of Denver. He took up the scholarship and only played for a year saying it was too much to do two sports. Hicke said he also “ended up getting crazy and play[ed] rugby as well.”
Hicke finally went back home to help with his parents’ pizza restaurant and changed schools to Universty of Wisconsin Eau Claire.
For every team Hicke played on, he was one of the leaders.
“I was a pretty good athlete when I was younger,” Hicke said. “And I just love team. And every time I’ve been there, I’ve been one of the leaders of the team. And, you know, I think that’s what brought me to coaching is trying to bring that leadership and try to get the best out of players. And it puts a smile on your face.”
Hicke has not stopped leading since then and is now coaching a roster of 33 men.
The players Hicke coaches are anywhere from twenty-one to thirty-seven years old. They all have different hockey experience under their belt too.
“Some of the guys played on some elite travel teams, some kids have played college, some guys have played minor Pro,” Hicke said. “So then playing the minor pro at the East Coast Hockey League, which is affiliated with NHL, those guys, you know, they might not have the size that some NHL guys, but they definitely have the heart and the skill.”
Having so many different skill sets lets the guys learn from each other. Hicke admires that no matter the experience level, the guys don’t think they are too good for the team or not good enough.
The team has a good bond even though half of the team is from out of the state. Hicke says roadtrips are wher they bond the best. The players stay in a hotel together, hang out during community events and keep up with each other on social media as well.
“This team is been a really big part of the reason I want to keep playing,” Jiron said “We’ve had other teams in the past where there’s, I would say cliques, but this whole team just gels really well. It’s like a brotherhood. Everybody gets along really well. And everyone has each other’s back on the ice and off.”
There is one hockey player that is not on Reno Ice Raiders but Hicke helped him get involved in the hockey world. Alexi K. was a Russian kid out of Vacaville, Calif. wanting to play hockey. Both him and his mom spoke broken English and did not know what steps to take for starting to play. Alexi did not have any gear but Hicke got him an opportunity to play at high levels in different parts of the country. While Hicke coached juniors, he would bring Alexi with him and Alexi even lived with him. Hicke said Alexi was like a kid of his.
Being a coach doesn’t always mean just teaching your players hockey skills. Hicke has been like a second parent to some of his athletes.
“I’ve had many parents asked me to talk to their kid about, you know, the girlfriend they had or couldn’t they get their grades up or because they would rather listen to me than they would listen to their parents,” Hicke said. “So a special bond, that it is a special bond.”
Just as Hicke was explaining this, the team was walking into the back door of the building and stopped to give him a hug and ask how he was doing. Hicke went on to say how much the guys want him to be a part of their lives. Although Hicke is flattered by this, he still demands a lot out of them as players.
Jiron admires Hickes coaching style and has taken some of his tip to apply to his own 10U hockey team. As an assistant coach to the Jets Youth Hockey in California, Jiron runs practices and gives the kids off ice conditioning tips.
“I would attribute a lot of my coaching to shame because they always taught me to give back to the game,” Jiron said “Everything you take from it, you got to give it back and I coached the 10 and under team right now. So a lot of kids have a whole future ahead of them.”
Hicke saw Jiron grow up and have a future in hockey and also has stayed connected with his family. Jiron said that he and Hicke go golfing together and he knows his brother, dad, sisters and their wives and husbands.
Another family connection that Hicke has is with the Ice Raiders General Manager Jess Peterson. Hicke coached Jess’ brother, Andrew Peterson, junior team about 15 years ago. Andrew Peterson is currently a player on the Ice Raiders.
After games, Jess Peterson likes to go to Flowing Tide South with Hicke to get some drinks and go over the game. With a Whiskey Neat in hand, Hicke tells Peterson a lot of stories about him and his dad’s hockey life.
Because of how much Hicke knows about different NHL teams and organizations, he doesn’t have a favorite team but he follows certain players. There are teams he admires for different reasons but he can’t just name one as his favorite. Following an athlete is easier for Hicke because they tend to move teams because of free agency.
“Sidney Crosby is a great player to watch,” Hicke said. “I know he’s getting a little bit older. Pittsburgh Penguins have been one of my favorite teams to watch because they’re exciting. I really like Jon Cooper as a coach. And I like how the Tampa Bay Lightning have been playing. They’ve created a great team.”
Hicke likes the Tampa Bay coaching style because the players have grit and that is what helped them start winning games. Effort is the number one thing that Coach is looking for in his players. When he sees the athletes have effort then he appreciates them more.
Additionally, Hicke values the community. Reno is really connected with the Ice Raiders and Hicke wishes there was a larger facility for all of the support.
“I wish we would have put 2000 seats in here because I think we could have sold out,” Hicke said. “I am so happy that we have what we have. The fans have embraced the team, the players. It’s just great.”
This seems to be a recurring pattern because Hicke remembers having a large community standing with the Reno Express roller hockey team, which Hicke used to play for, and Renegades ice hockey team. Hickes dad used to play for another ice hockey team Reno used to have called the Aces. With all of this knowledge, Hicke knew Reno was a hockey town.
“It’s a winner town,” Hicke said. “And I told the ownership group when they took on the Petersons as I coached them when they were younger. And I said, Andrew, this thing’s gonna blow up here if it’s done right. And hopefully we’re doing it right. And hopefully we can continue doing it.”
The team hopes that a second rink can have more seats for fans. Hicke thinks it would be great for the city, community and kids to continue building hockey in Reno.
“But, you know, it’s been one of those great things that we’ve been able to bring this team up here,” Hicke said. “Be able to compete in front of great fans, and we’re so happy to be in Reno.”
Because this is a first year team and the organization is still growing, Hicke hopes they can get more sponsorships to help pay for expenses. Some large expenses include the ice and operations that go with it. He also wants to have money for the team to do community events and potentially bring in better players.
Hicke admires how much the ownership team has done for him and the team. He believes they are the reason why the organization has been so successful.
Kelsey Middleton can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @kelsmiddleunr