Aztecs chart new course under Weston
Athletes are often asked what they’re going to do when their playing days are over.
For San Diego State University head coach Ryan Weston, the end of an extended minor league hockey career called for an answer to what to do next.
His last year with the ECHL’s Las Vegas Wranglers was an enjoyable final stint.
Weston played under Ryan Mougenel that season, and he gives great credit to the man for helping him discover the next chapter of his life in hockey.
At the time, Mougenel was both the coach and the general manager of the Wranglers.
“He wore a lot of hats,” Weston said of Mougenel. “That last year in Las Vegas, I think I enjoyed it the most even though I was the farthest away from my dream, which was playing in the NHL. I learned a lot about what it was to run a program.”
Now, Weston has moved onto the next stage of his hockey career. He’s seized an opportunity, like Mougenel, to shape a program in his own image.
So what grand visions does Weston have for the American Collegiate Hockey Association Division II outfit?
At the core, Weston said his primary focus has to be on building the club program. That means apart from success on the ice, the Aztecs must concentrate their efforts on “necessary evils” such as fundraising; player fees can approach $2,500 per player each season.
Weston touched on the keys to making his first full season with the Aztecs a successful one.
“I think for this year to be a success – obviously we’re shooting for the playoffs – but it’s about changing the direction of the program,” he said. “I care for the program, I care about money for the program, and I care most for the players that play for me in this program.”
The players had their own criteria for their next coach. When Weston expressed an interest in the program long-term, his name rose to the top of the list of candidates.
“I’ve played for SDSU ice hockey for four and a half years,” Aztecs captain Thomas Lapp said. “During that time, I’ve played under four different head coaches. In my mind, it’s tough to build a seriously-strong program without a steady, constant head coach.”
Lapp appreciates Weston’s commitment to the off-ice element of the job.
“He’s thinking about the direction the team can take in the future. He’s constantly thinking of ways to improve the program as a whole,” he said in regards to Weston’s focus on fundraising and immersing the team in the community.
The administrative side of the organization has been a big deal to club president Conor Pope, too. The senior recently worked with school officials to orchestrate a shoe drive that would help with the team’s budget.
The Aztecs coach grew up on the frozen ponds of New Hampshire. From there, he played for four years at Boston University before spending time with the Albany River Rats and the San Antonio Rampage of the American Hockey League.
Weston was pleasantly surprised with the level of hockey in California when he arrived. He sees the expansion of college hockey on the West Coast as a chance for players to write an end to the story of their own hockey careers.
“I’ve been able to assess hockey in California, and my assessment is that hockey is alive and well,” he said. “A player who picks up the skates at 8 or 9 years old, you can now complete the story.”
– Andrew Turner