Rick Comley

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Rick Comley
Sport(s) Ice hockey
Biographical details
Born (1947-01-20) January 20, 1947 (age 67)
Playing career
Lake Superior State
Coaching career (HC unless noted)
1973–1976
1976–2002
2002–2011
Lake Superior State
Northern Michigan
Michigan State
Head coaching record
Overall 783–615–110 (.556)

Rick Comley (born January 20, 1947) is a former collegiate ice hockey player and former head coach at Michigan State University. He finished his 38-year coaching career with a 783-615-110 (.556) record. In 2007, he became the third coach in NCAA history to win a national championship at two different schools.

Playing career[edit]

Comley played at Lake Superior State University in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan (1967–1971) under head coach Ron Mason, college hockey's career coaching victories leader. In his senior season, Comley was named LSSU team captain and Most Valuable Player and was selected NAIA All-American. He was also named LSSU's Most Outstanding Athlete that year.

Coaching career[edit]

Lake Superior State[edit]

Comley rejoined the LSSU program as an assistant coach for the 1972-73 season. When head coach Ron Mason took the head coaching position at Bowling Green State University, Comley was named his successor. Comley compiled a 59-46-3 mark in the three seasons at Lake Superior winning the CCHA regular-season title and NAIA national championship in 1974.

Northern Michigan[edit]

With an offer from Northern Michigan University that included a recruiting budget twice the size of LSSU, Comley departed Sault Ste. Marie for Marquette to start NMU's varsity ice hockey program. Northern Michigan completed its first season in 1977 with a winning record of 19-13-1. In the program's fourth season, Comley guided NMU to their first of two consecutive CCHA regular-season and play-off championships. With those championships in 1980 and 1981, Northern Michigan earned automatic bids to the NCAA Tournament. The 34-6-1 1980 team defeated University of Minnesota in Minneapolis advancing to the NCAA Frozen Four where they defeated No. 1 seed Cornell University to make the national championship game. The team lost the national championship to University of North Dakota, 5-2. Again, Comley guided NMU to the NCAA Frozen Four in 1981 with a victory over Cornell before losing to eventual national champion Wisconsin and archrival Michigan Tech in the consolation game.

In 1984 Comley and Northern Michigan followed Michigan Tech to the Western Collegiate Hockey Association. In the WCHA, Comley coached NMU to seven 20-win season in nine years. He won the WCHA MacNaughton Cup as regular-season champions in 1991 and won the Broadmoor Trophy as play-off champions in 1989, 1991 and 1992. During Northern Michigan's time in the WCHA, the Wildcats made the NCAA tournament in 1989, 1991, 1992 and 1993 winning the 1991 NCAA National Championship in a dramatic triple overtime game against Boston University.

In a university-wide effort to gain more presence in the lower peninsula of Michigan, Comley switched NMU's hockey program back to the CCHA in 1997. The move proved to re-energize hockey at Northern Michigan which had three straight losing seasons prior to 1997-98. Comley coached NMU to five straight winning seasons and three trips to Joe Louis Arena for the CCHA championships. In 1999, Northern Michigan made the CCHA title game, but lost to University of Michigan. The championship appearance earned Comley and NMU their first berth in the NCAA tournament since 1993.

During his time at NMU, Comley also served as athletic director from 1987-2000 highlighted by: major improvements in facilities including the building and completion of Superior Dome and Berry Events Center, several Great Lakes Intercollegiate Athletic Conference championships, two NCAA Division II titles in women's volleyball, and the establishment of the U.S. Olympic Educational Center.

Michigan State[edit]

Rick Comley was announced as Ron Mason's successor as head ice hockey coach at Michigan State University in March 2002. Comley was succeeded at NMU by former player and New York Rangers assistant Walt Kyle. Previously, Comley declined head coaching offers at Bowling Green State University in 1979 and 1994 and at University of Denver in 1994.

Comley's tenure at MSU has been turbulent replacing the iconic Ron Mason. While Mason's final five years produced no less than 27 wins in a single season, Comley has yet to win more than 26 games in a single season in his first five years. Inconsistent play, sub-par records, missing the NCAA Tournament twice in his first three seasons and no CCHA regular season titles have left doubt in MSU hockey fans' minds that Comley is an acceptable replacement as coach. The unwillingness by MSU to make a coaching change has left those fans with the thought that Mason, former athletic director at MSU, hired and keeps Comley as part of a friend helping a friend. Comley is slowly erasing doubts with improvements in 2006 and 2007. After missing the NCAA Tournament in 2005, Comley guided MSU to a second-place CCHA finish and a CCHA play-off championship in 2005-06. In 2006-07, Michigan State was preseason ranked No. 5, which was MSU's highest preseason ranking since October 2001. The team was, again, inconsistent but earned an NCAA Tournament bid. In a stunning series of games, the Comley-led MSU team defeated three higher-ranked teams en route to the national championship including No. 1-ranked Notre Dame in the Midwest Regional final and No. 4-ranked Boston College in the National Championship game.

Comley retired at the end of the 2010-2011 season. He was succeeded by Tom Anastos.

Legacy[edit]

Rick Comley is one of only five coaches to have won more than 700 games, and one of only three to have won NCAA Championships at two separate schools. Comley was the CCHA coach of the year twice (1980 and 1981) and WCHA coach of the year twice (1989 and 1991). He has won the Spencer Penrose Memorial Trophy as the national coach of the year twice (1980 and 1991). He was runner-up for the Spencer Penrose Trophy in 2007.

In his 33 seasons as a head coach, Rick Comley coached 1991 Hobey Baker Memorial Award runner-up Brad Werenka and nine Hobey Baker finalists. He has coached 14 AHCA First and Second Team All-Americans, three CCHA players of the year, one WCHA player of the year, 20 First and Second Team All-CCHA selections, 13 First Team and Second Team All-WCHA selection and 19 players who went on to play in the NHL.

In addition Comley has 25 seasons with a winning record, 17 seasons winning 20 or more games and two seasons winning 30 or more games. Comley has won two CCHA regular-season championships, three CCHA play-off titles, one WCHA regular-season title and four WCHA play-off titles. His teams have advanced to the NCAA tournament nine times making the Frozen Four four times.

Notable players coached[edit]

In 38 years of coaching, Rick Comley has coached a number of outstanding players.

Hobey Baker Award finalists[edit]

Steve Bozek 1981
Gary Emmons 1986 and 1987
Phil Berger 1988
Scott Beattie 1991 and 1992
Brad Werenka 1991
John-Michael Liles 2003
Jim Slater 2004
Jeff Lerg 2008

AHCA All-America[edit]

Steve Bozek 1981 Forward Northern Michigan
Bill Schafhauser 1984 Defense Northern Michigan Second Team
Gary Emmons 1987 Forward Northern Michigan Second Team
Phil Berger 1988 Forward Northern Michigan Second Team
Darryl Olsen 1989 Defense Northern Michigan Second Team
Brad Werenka 1991 Defense Northern Michigan
Scott Beattie 1991 Forward Northern Michigan
Bill Pye 1991 Goalie Northern Michigan Second Team
Dallas Drake 1992 Forward Northern Michigan
Jim Hiller 1992 Forward Northern Michigan Second Team
John-Michael Liles 2003 Defense Michigan State
Brad Fast 2003 Defense Michigan State Second Team
Jim Slater 2004 Forward Michigan State Second Team
A.J. Thelen 2004 Defense Michigan State Second Team
Jeff Lerg 2008 Goalie Michigan State Second Team
Jeff Petry 2008 Defense Michigan State Second Team

Conference Player of the Year[edit]

Don Waddell 1978 Defense Northern Michigan
Steve Weeks 1980 Goalie Northern Michigan
Jeff Pyle 1981 Forward Northern Michigan
Scott Beattie 1991 Forward Northern Michigan

NHL players[edit]

Justin Abdelkader Michigan State Detroit Red Wings
Mark Beaufait Northern Michigan San Jose Sharks
David Booth Michigan State Florida Panthers
Steve Bozek Northern Michigan Calgary Flames
Dallas Drake Northern Michigan St. Louis Blues
Gary Emmons Northern Michigan San Jose Sharks
Brad Fast Michigan State Carolina Hurricanes
Keith Hanson Northern Michigan Calgary Flames
Jim Hiller Northern Michigan Los Angeles Kings
Tim Kennedy Michigan State Florida Panthers
Dieter Kochan Northern Michigan Tampa Bay Lightning
Torey Krug Michigan State Boston Bruins
Tom Laidlaw Northern Michigan New York Rangers
Drew Miller Michigan State Detroit Red Wings
Chris Mueller Michigan State Tampa Bay Lightning
Darryl Olsen Northern Michigan Calgary Flames
Jeff Petry Michigan State Edmonton Oilers
Corey Potter Michigan State Edmonton Oilers
Jim Slater Michigan State Winnipeg Jets
Mike Stutzel Northern Michigan Phoenix Coyotes
Corey Tropp Michigan State Buffalo Sabres
Don Waddell Northern Michigan Los Angeles Kings
Ed Ward Northern Michigan Calgary Flames
Steve Weeks Northern Michigan Vancouver Canucks
Brad Werenka Northern Michigan Pittsburgh Penguins
J.P. Vigier Northern Michigan Atlanta Thrashers

Olympians[edit]

Mark Beaufait 1994 USA
Bruno Campese 1994 Italy
Phil DeGaetano 1994 Italy
Eric LeMarque 1994 France
Brad Werenka 1994 Canada Silver

Head coaching record[edit]

Season Team Overall Conference Standing Postseason
Lake Superior State University (CCHA) (1973-74–1975-76)
1973-74 Lake Superior State 22-16-1 5-3-0 T - 1st NAIA Champions
1974-75 Lake Superior State 17-14-1 2-5-1 3rd
1975-76 Lake Superior State 20-15-1 9-7-0 3rd
Lake Superior State: 59-45-3 16-15-1
Northern Michigan University (Independent) (1976-77–1976-77)
1976-77 Northern Michigan 19-13-1
Northern Michigan University (CCHA) (1977-78–1983-84)
1977-78 Northern Michigan 19-12-3 8-10-2 T - 3rd
1978-79 Northern Michigan 19-12-3 13-10-1 3rd
1979-80 Northern Michigan 34-6-1 17-3-0 1st NCAA Finalist
1980-81 Northern Michigan 27-14-3 18-4-0 1st NCAA Fourth Place
1981-82 Northern Michigan 15-21-0 12-16-0 8th
1982-83 Northern Michigan 18-18-4 16-13-3 5th
1983-84 Northern Michigan 17-22-1 16-14-0 4th
Northern Michigan University (WCHA) (1984-85–1996-97)
1984-85 Northern Michigan 19-21-0 14-20-0 7th
1985-86 Northern Michigan 23-14-2 21-13-0 5th
1986-87 Northern Michigan 18-21-1 16-18-1 5th
1987-88 Northern Michigan 16-20-4 14-17-4 T - 6th
1988-89 Northern Michigan 26-17-2 20-13-2 2nd NCAA First Round
1989-90 Northern Michigan 22-19-1 15-12-1 4th
1990-91 Northern Michigan 38-5-4 25-3-4 1st NCAA Champions
1991-92 Northern Michigan 25-14-3 17-12-3 3rd NCAA Quarterfinalist
1992-93 Northern Michigan 21-18-4 15-13-4 5th NCAA Quarterfinalist
1993-94 Northern Michigan 22-16-1 17-14-1 5th
1994-95 Northern Michigan 13-24-3 10-19-3 9th
1995-96 Northern Michigan 7-30-2 5-25-2 10th
1996-97 Northern Michigan 13-24-3 9-21-2 8th
Northern Michigan University (CCHA) (1997-98–2001-02)
1997-98 Northern Michigan 19-15-4 15-12-3 4th
1998-99 Northern Michigan 22-15-5 14-11-5 5th NCAA First Round
1999-2000 Northern Michigan 22-13-4 16-8-4 T - 3rd
2000-01 Northern Michigan 18-13-7 12-10-6 T - 5th
2001-02 Northern Michigan 26-12-2 16-10-2 3rd
Northern Michigan: 538-429-68
Michigan State University (CCHA) (2002-03–2010-11)
2002-03 Michigan State 23-14-2 17-10-1 4th
2003-04 Michigan State 23-17-2 17-9-2 3rd NCAA First Round
2004-05 Michigan State 20-17-4 12-13-3 6th
2005-06 Michigan State 25-12-8 14-7-7 2nd NCAA Quarterfinalist
2006-07 Michigan State 26-13-3 15-10-3 4th NCAA Champions
2007-08 Michigan State 25-12-5 19-6-3 3rd NCAA Quarterfinalist
2008-09 Michigan State 10-23-5 7-17-4 T - 10th
2009-10 Michigan State 19-13-6 14-8-6 2nd
2010-11 Michigan State 15-19-4 11-15-2 10th
Michigan State: 186-140-39
Total: 768-596-106

      National champion  
      Conference regular season champion         Conference regular season and conference tournament champion
      Division regular season champion       Division regular season and conference tournament champion
      Conference tournament champion

See also[edit]

References[edit]


External links[edit]

Awards and achievements
Preceded by
Charlie Holt
Terry Slater
Spencer Penrose Award
1979–80
1990–91
Succeeded by
Bill O'Flaherty
Ron Mason
Preceded by
Ron Mason
CCHA Coach of the Year
1979–80
1980–81
Succeeded by

Jerry York