Chad Wiseman’s first trip to the Isobel Cup Final to be his last with the Riveters

The Ice Garden talks with founding Riveters coach about the announcement of his new role

In three seasons with the Riveters, Head Coach Chad Wiseman has never been the type to attract attention to himself. Therefore, the announcement of his new job coming out before the most important game with his current team was a bit odd. On Tuesday, the Burlington Cougars announced Wiseman as the 2018-19 head coach—just five days before he and his team suit up for the Isobel Cup Final for the first time.

“Chad is a professional hockey person- a skills coach, systems coach, development coach, all in one … We see tremendous opportunity for Chad and our team to be successful both on and off the ice this season,” said Alex Bezerra, Cougars General Manager in the team press release.

“I’ve been fighting for a while here with decision-making and what the future looks like for myself and my family,” Wiseman told The Ice Garden Thursday night before Riveters practice. For the past three seasons, Wiseman has traveled down from Canada to coach the Riveters. It is a sacrifice he and his family make willingly for him to carve a path to his ultimate goal as an NHL coach.

Recently, being closer to home has been a high priority. Wiseman’s wife has required numerous surgeries, the latest just a week ago. “I didn’t know what I was going to do,” said Wiseman, who was offered a position with the Cougars weeks before his wife’s latest procedure. “Last week, I decided that I think it’s best that I make this decision for myself. Obviously, it’s a great opportunity, but I’d really like to be home with my family.”

In addition to being much closer to home, Wiseman will also have the opportunity to continue coaching with a very familiar organization. Wes Wiseman, Chad’s father, served as the head coach of the Cougars from 2001 to 2007.  Additionally, Chad and his four brothers played for the organization growing up.

Yet, there is a bittersweet feeling to his time with the Riveters coming to an end. “Unfortunately, we all have to make those decisions in life, and they’re hard decisions.” Wiseman admitted he had few concrete expectations when he started in the NWHL. Like many other hockey fans, he didn’t know much about the women’s game beyond the Olympics. It wasn’t until midway through the 2015-16 season that he saw a clear vision for success in the women’s game.

“I didn’t have a ton of expectations when I started and about halfway through the season when things really got rolling, I saw how quickly our team was coming together. Last year, there was an opportunity to win because we were really good, but it was unlikely. So we were really looking [towards] year three. I think it was a three-year plan.”

It has taken Wiseman exactly three seasons to get to the final, with the help of four season one veterans: Ashley Johnston, Madison Packer, Bray Ketchum, and Kiira Dosdall. In that time, Wiseman took the franchise from four wins total in the inaugural season to an eleven game winning streak to start the third season. In just one year, he took the Riveters from fourth to second in the NWHL regular season standings.

Not only has Wiseman made clear his vision for the team, but he’s always been upfront about his commitments to his family and his ambitions as a coach. “We’re really happy for him,” said Riveters forward Miye D’Oench.  “He’s given us so much, he’s been so dedicated and sacrificed so much for this team over the last three years and delivered a tremendous result already, regardless of what happens on Sunday.”

Three-year athletic trainer Ashley Robbins added, “He’s been one of the greatest coaches I’ve ever worked with … it’s sad to see him go, but this is what’s best for him and his family. It’s that next step for him.”  Robbins added that the culture of the franchise may change under new leadership, but she is confident in the foundation the veterans, herself included, have built. She also added, somewhat playfully, that she could see Wiseman returning, “He’ll come back. He’ll miss us.”

When asked if he was available to help with the transition of leadership, Wiseman responded, “Absolutely. One hundred percent … I’d love to stay involved in the league and I’ve expressed that to Dani [Rylan], and she’s been great and super supportive.”

So, we might not have seen the last of Chad Wiseman in the NWHL. In fact, he has one more game to coach before opening the next chapter of his hockey career. He will lead the Riveters in one last battle. If all goes according to the three-year plan, he will celebrate with this team Sunday. Regardless of the outcome, on Tuesday he will be officially introduced as the head coach of his former team.