The Janesville Jets have big skates to fill.
Less than seven weeks before the start of the North American Hockey League season, the local team is in need of a new head coach and general manager.
Joe Dibble, who has been at the helm the past five seasons and was a key leader in making Janesville a junior hockey destination, has resigned, the team announced Tuesday. Dibble will step down effective Aug. 15, citing the need to move to Minnesota and focus on his family.
“You spend all year with your guys, and you talk about how important that family is in that (locker) room,” Dibble said. “At some point, you realize, too, about the immediate family. You let that bucket drain for a little while to fill the other one. I think it’s time to fill the (immediate family) bucket back up.”
Dibble’s wife, Raven, and their young son and daughter moved back to Minnesota, near both Joe’s and Raven’s families, midway through last season.
“As much as I’m on the road, it’s difficult,” Dibble said. “My son is 5 now and is starting soccer, and I’ve probably seen him six times since the Robertson Cup (in mid-May). You do some searching, and you want to go do that instead of coach.”
Dibble certainly left his mark on the Jets organization.
The team amassed a 181-91-28 record during his five seasons. And the Jets were 126-40-14 over the past three years, reaching the Robertson Cup semifinals twice during that span.
But Dibble’s impact was felt beyond the team’s on-ice success. He put a priority on player advancement and saw 51 players go on to play Division I college hockey. Twenty-one players moved up to the Tier I United States Hockey League, and one, goalie Jack LaFontaine, was an NHL draft pick in 2016.
“I told him we totally support it (his decision),” Jets president Bill McCoshen said. “He’s given us everything he’s had for five years and had a tremendous run.
“I think he changed the face of the entire league. We were the first team to go with younger guys that were talented but not quite ready for the United States Hockey League. We were able to move those guys directly to DI or many cases up to the USHL. The more players and advisors saw that, the more they wanted to send their kids to us.”
Dibble said the players, organizational staff, trainers and many more behind the scenes deserve much of the credit in building a “championship culture.”
“I remember coming here ... and having goals and aspirations, but you fast forward five years and you think about how much has been accomplished by the organization and players,” Dibble said. “You look at where some guys are playing and follow their careers ... as well as some of the assistants. Without them, we wouldn’t be having the success we are now.”
McCoshen said Tuesday he’s already spoken with some potential candidates to fill the open position, and the organization will work quickly in the hiring process.
McCoshen said new assistant coach Corey Leivermann has indicated he’ll remain on board regardless of who is hired.
“It’s a destination job now,” McCoshen said. “Together we’ve built one of the strongest brands in junior hockey. I expect to get a lot of interest.”
The Jets need to make a relatively quick decision. They open their season Sept. 16 at Springfield.