Brainerd High School found its new boys hockey coach.
Howie Borden, 42, accepted the position of Warriors boys hockey coach and is waiting to be approved by the school board to be officially named head coach.
It will be the first time in Borden’s coaching career that he will be a head coach. Previously, Borden served as an assistant coach at St. John’s University and Bethel University at the collegiate level.
From 2002-2015, Borden was assistant coach at the junior hockey level. He spent time with the Minnesota Ice Hawks, the Alexandria Blizzard and the Granite City Lumberjacks.
“I got to work with three very great junior hockey programs,” Borden said. “My experience with those programs was amazing. With the Ice Hawks, we ended up going to the national tournament three years in a row. In the North American League, I was able to help a team get to the Roberts Cup which is the national tournament for NAHL. In Granite City, we played for two national championships and won the silver cup twice when I was there.”
Borden moved to Brainerd in 2019 and has been involved with youth hockey in Brainerd in his brief time living in the area. He coached and served on the youth hockey board that started in May 2020.
“I’ve found the more I immerse myself in the community I’ve enjoyed it a lot more,” Borden said. “When I saw this position open up, it made me think that this was the right thing for me at the right time.”
Borden calls himself a builder and hopes to build off the foundation of the coaches before him at Brainerd.
“He’s certainly a fresh face for our program,” Brainerd activities director Charlie Campbell said. “He’s relatively new to our community which is sometimes a really good thing. He’s been involved with the youth association already and has already established some really good relationships there and that’s going to continue to be important.”
Borden is excited about making the transition to being a head coach at the high school level. He’s thankful Campbell is giving him the opportunity.
“I’m excited about coaching in Section 8-2A,” Borden said. “It’s the section I grew up in when I was at Bemidji. It's a very competitive section and that’s one of the exciting pieces for me. The other exciting thing for me is the challenge of high school hockey. I’ve never dived in as a high school coach before — I’ve been at the junior hockey level for many years and I was at the NCAA Division III level for five years. So to go from those levels to never having competed at the high school level that excites me as something new.”
Being an assistant for decades Borden thinks has prepared him to be a first-time head coach with Brainerd.
“A head coach surrounds himself with good support staff,” he said. “You have to run as a fluid unit and if you don’t have the right people to run as a fluid unit it makes more work for you. As an assistant coach I was very hard-working to support the guy I worked for as best as good and that’s what has gotten me to this point.”
Borden said he’s already reached out to some assistants who have already accepted once Borden is approved as head coach.
“They are going to bring hockey knowledge from playing and coaching and are going to bring excitement,” Borden said. “They bring support and everything we need to keep the transition going forward. All the coaches who have been in my position prior have done something important for the program. Everyone has done something good and brought value to it in their own way.”
Campbell thinks Borden will fit right in with the vision of the activities department.
“We have a culture in our department and a way we want to carry ourselves to do business and I know Howie and their staff are going to do that,” Campbell said. “At the same time it’s good to bring someone in who has a fresh lens.”
Borden wants to continue the momentum of the previous coaching staff of tying youth hockey programs to the high school programs together more tightly.
“Being in a town like Brainerd, it’s a very traditional community,” Borden said. “It’s got a small-town feel and it reminds me of Bemidji growing up. You run into a lot of people who are hockey people and having that connection is strong.”
Borden takes over for former Warriors head coach Dave Aus, who coached seven years at Brainerd. Last year, the Warriors went 5-4-1 in conference and 6-12-1 overall. They lost in the first round of Section 8-2A playoffs 5-1 to St. Michael-Albertville.
“Howie showed that whatever he’s taken a part of in his professional life, whether it's coaching, he has done really well,” Campbell said. “It was confirmed by his interviews, confirmed by his references and so I’m really excited for him in this opportunity. He’s got great energy and passion and he’s all about the kids. So I’m super excited for their experience and for the kids to spend time with Howie and his staff.”
CONRAD ENGSTROM may be reached at 218-855-5861 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow on Twitter at www.twitter.com/the_rad34.