Hat Tricks Add “Dependable” and Familiar Face to Coaching Staff
DANBURY — Kyle Gonzalez is a well-known name and an easy face to recognize in the Hat Tricks community. The right-handed defensemen played in the Hat Tricks’ inaugural season in 2019 and wore an “A” on his jersey during the team’s championship run last year.
“Gonzo” is also recently engaged and secured his MBA in Human Resource Management from Louisiana State University in Shreveport a few months ago, which Hat Tricks Insider Jim Cerny detailed earlier this month.
Now, the Hat Tricks enter year four as an organization and their third with Gonzalez in the mix. The biggest difference: Gonzalez’s title has changed to player coach.
“It’s an interesting idea to wrap your head around, but it’s an opportunity for guys who may want to get into coaching later on but aren’t done playing yet,” said Gonzalez. “I’ve always wanted to coach a hockey team. I coached kids growing up but not a specific hockey team.”
Gonzalez, who has spent the majority of his professional career in the SPHL, is fresh off a career-high 34-point campaign (three goals, 31 assists) with the Hat Tricks during his 54 games in the lineup.
“Kyle is a great leader,” said Head Coach and General Manager Billy McCreary. “He understands communication, work ethic, championship environments, and fully believes in what we are building here. Kyle did a fantastic job as an assistant captain last year. He has worked tirelessly on his craft and continues to demand excellence in everything he does. That mentality is infectious, so it was an easy decision to bring him into the front office.”
Gonzalez, who turns 30 in March, knows that eventually his skates could be swapped for a clipboard and whistle.
“Going back and getting my masters, I do understand that there’s life outside of hockey and at some point, I will have bigger bills to pay,” said Gonzalez. “I really enjoyed Human Resource Management when I took a few classes in my undergrad for Business Management, so I ran with it. I want to treat a workplace how you’d see a locker room. Cohesiveness should equal good product and I want to take that into the business world.”
The player assistant role is nothing new to the Hat Tricks. Captain Jonny Ruiz was in a similar position last year. On top of a 69-point effort (39 goals, 30 assists) in 56 contests, Ruiz did the little things that, Gonzalez said, he wants to implement into his approach.
“He brought a leadership style every single day and just set a good example for everyone in the room. He handled himself very well as far as telling coach how the vibes were in the room, about what may need to change and what doesn’t need to change. He led us on the ice and it was a great role model to see how it’s done.”
Gonzalez is “one of the most dependable guys we have in the locker room and if you ask the players, I’m sure they echo that,” said McCreary. That praise and respect from coaches and teammates made Gonzalez’s decision to stay in Danbury for the 2023-24 season an easy one.
“There’re always different opportunities, but I never thought about leaving. This is home for me especially after the championship last year. Taking on a different role here, it’s good to come into the room and just know your role and know where you fit into the team. My fiancé and I are very comfortable here and we call it home and that stability is what keeps me here."
Although Gonzalez’s responsibilities have shifted a bit from last season to now the fans, players, and coaches can expect to see the same old Gonzo.
“I don’t think I’m going to change who I am just because the role or my title has changed. I think I’ve been able to get to where I am just by being me and I think I’ll just continue to do that and I’m sure everything will pan out just fine.”
Photos: Chris Rutsch