Bobby Goepfert played goalie for the St. Cloud State men's hockey team from 2005-07 and is from Kings Park, N.Y. He played with 18 teammates who were from the state of Minnesota and, all these years later, he wants to offer an apology.
"The biggest thing for me now is I go out of my way to apologize to all of my teammates who used to speak about Minnesota high school hockey (fondly)," Goepfert said. "As a player, I'd say to them, 'Enough already. Cut the cord.'
"I remember (Dan) Kronick talking about his four goals in the state tournament. 'Kronny, that was five years ago. Let it go,'" Goepfert said of the former Holy Angels standout. "But when you experience the games, see how the community connects to it ... I'm so jealous I wasn't able to play Minnesota high school hockey. When I look back at my high school, I was known as the hockey guy. Some people would be, 'Hockey? What's hockey?'"
Hockey has been Goepfert's livelihood since 2007. He played professionally in North America and Europe until 2016 and recently finished up his second season as an assistant coach for the Cedar Rapids (Iowa) Roughriders of the United States Hockey League in juniors. He scouts Minnesota high school players regularly in his current job.
If this were a typical season, the Roughriders would be wrapping up their regular season with the hopes of making a playoff run. Cedar Rapids was four points out of the last playoff spot in the USHL's Eastern Conference when the coronavirus pandemic hit and ended up cancelling the rest of the season.
So with social distancing the current norm, what is Goepfert and his team's coaching staff working on? They are preparing for the USHL Draft, which will take place May 4-5.
"It's a lot of draft prep, making a ton of phone calls, talking to kids and dotting 'Is' and crossing 'Ts' a little bit earlier than we normally would if the season was still going," Goepfert said. "We're reaching out and watching video, trying to watch guys more on FASTHockey and trying to get more a feeling on players.
"To be honest, it's what I enjoy the most: finding players and building a team, putting it together and how you formulate a team with the draft and the work that goes into it. I enjoy talking about players, getting opinions and seeing what you see and discussing it. It's a lot of fun."
Playing in Germany
Goepfert got into the coaching business after injuries played a part in ending his career. His last two seasons, he only played in a combined 13 games because of injuries. Goepfert had hip surgery, then said he tried to come back after not being fully healed and ended up battling groin and back injuries and then a broken foot.
"I had hip surgery and they said it was a 6-8-month recovery time and by the time I got my surgery, it was playoff time and I wanted to be a hero and come back just in case," said Goepfert, who is now 36 years old. "I came back in four months, trained hard over the summer but I was never fully right.
"I could never get the train back on the tracks," said Goepfert, who had a .916 save percentage and 2.83 goals-against average in 10 games in 2015-16. "I played well. I had more in the tank, but I just couldn't stay healthy and it was mentally tough."
He played six seasons (2009-10, 2011-16) in Germany's top league, the last four for a team in Düsseldorf. After leaving St. Cloud State, Goepfert also spent three seasons playing for teams in the American Hockey League and the ECHL.
"Over here, you never know when you're going to get called up or traded or released," he said of playing in North America. "There's that feeling of, 'I need to do this, for me.' The team collective is rare in the minors, for a team to buy in, that we're going to do this or this is our goal. What I found is that I need to move on, get up here, get a better contract and ... me.
"In Europe, this is our team. Rare, if any, trades. You've got to go out of your way to play yourself out of your contract. When you go over, you can feel the support and the love of the team by the city and we're doing this for them," said Goepfert, who also played for the DEG Metro Stars and Hamburg Freezers in his German career. "It's a team, goal-oriented mindset.
"The chanting, the jumping, the scarves, slogans and catch lines and chanting in unison," he said of German crowds. "It's a really incredible atmosphere. It's kind of like a high school and college hybrid (atmosphere)."
Getting into coaching
And now, Goepfert is back working with Cedar Rapids head coach Mark Carlson, whom he played for from 2000-02, earning USHL Goaltender of the Year honors in 2001-02. They reunited after ... Carlson and former St. Cloud State coach Bob Motzko tried to convince Goepfert to stay out of coaching.
"I called him and Bob and both guys said the same thing, 'Are you sure you want to do this? Try something else,'" Goepfert said with a laugh. "Carly said that every player thinks that they can coach.
"Then he told me to go to Boston, watch 12 hours of games and then go back and do it all again the next day."
Goepfert would take a job as the head coach of the Syracuse Jr. Stars of the United States Premier Hockey League and did that for a season before joining Carlson's staff.
"As an assistant in this league, we have a lot on our plates with the scouting being a huge part of our job," Goepfert said. "I also work with the goalies. I alternate being on the bench with the other assistant. I was on the bench more this year, learning how to run the 'D' and all the different avenues of bench management and in-game stuff.
"There's a hockey ops role that I also play and I run goalies skill sessions. For me, it's great. When you're doing a lot, you're learning a lot."
Goepfert and his wife, Angie, have two children, Bobby, 5, and Grace, 4. So does Goepfert want to be a head coach or what is his long-term goal with coaching?
"To be honest, I'm still trying to find my path, but I enjoy doing what I am now," he said. "I enjoy the coaching, scouting and goalie coaching. I don't have a set goal because I'm still developing as a coach. As a player, you know where you want to go. I'm so new into this realm, I'm just learning different paths and different avenues that you can go."
Goepfert, who transferred to St. Cloud State after two seasons at Providence, was a two-time American Hockey Coaches Association All-America West Second Team pick for the Huskies. Goepfert was a top 10 finalists for the Hobey Baker Award as a senior.