BROOKVILLE, N.Y. — Bobby Goepfert is deciding on a long-term career plan. This summer, at age 37, he and his wife Angie, and their children, Bobby, Jr., 6, and Grace, 5, moved back to Long Island into his childhood home with his mom.
"It's the same house I grew up in and my mother is enjoying the experience of grandma life," Goepfert said. "Built-in babysitter.
"I'm definitely not planning on living here long term because I feel like I'm 15 years old. I told her, 'Ma, we got one year and we'll see if it works and then I've got to spread my wings.' Maybe we'll be neighbors and just knock down a fence."
Goepfert is staying busy in hockey. He has started a goalie training business and on Sept. 25, he was named the volunteer goalie coach for Long Island University and head coach Brett Riley. LIU is starting an NCAA Division I men's team from scratch, but has 26 players on its roster, including three goalies.
The goalies include Garrett Metcalf, a graduate transfer from Mercyhurst; Vincent Purpura, a junior transfer from Boston University; and Stephen Mundinger, a graduate transfer from Maine. The plan is for Goepfert to work with the goalies 3-4 times per week.
"For us, it's a home run to have someone come in and work with those three goalies day in and day out for 20-30 minutes," Riley said of Goepfert, a two-time AHCA All-America Second Team West pick for St. Cloud State (2005-07). "He's one of the best goalies to come out of Long Island and it makes sense on multiple fronts.
"We want this to fit for him and his schedule. Being a volunteer and not receiving compensation, I didn't want to take time away from his family or from putting money in his pocket. He'll do a video session either before or after a 30-minute (on ice) session. We're open to his availability. If it's something he's extremely passionate about and can be around more, that's great. If he's got conflicts with projects or family, I totally understand."
Can't stay away
Goepfert spent the last two seasons as an assistant coach in junior hockey with the Cedar Rapids Roughriders of the United States Hockey League. But he decided to move back to Kings Park, N.Y., as he decided his next professional move.
"I'm trying to decide if I should go into the real world (professionally), but I'm too much of a rink rat and enjoy being on the ice," Goepfert said. "It's tough to get away from.
"There is a huge need for (goalie training) here and when I was coming through, there wasn't a ton of training. When I first retired, I was helping out and it just kind of grew. I think it's something I can build into a beneficial thing for the players on Long Island."
Goepfert 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.
While Goepfert played hockey for a long time, LIU did not have a men's team before making the announcement that it was starting a Division I program on April 30. When the university made the announcement it was adding the sport for the 2020-21 season, there was no additional announcements for where the team would play or practice, no coaching staff, no schedule and, heck, they didn't even have any equipment.
"It really is an unbelievable job that they're doing," Goepfert said of the LIU staff. "Seeing the progress with the staff even doing the equipment stuff, on the phone with different equipment reps and scheduling. It really is commendable, the amount of work and time that they are doing to build this.
"I remember when they announced it, you're looking at the timeline and wondering how this is going to happen. The determination and the work ethic with everyone on the staff to get to where we are now is really something."
Things are coming together for the Sharks, even with the challenges of trying to put all of this together during a global pandemic. The team is practicing in Long Island at Northwell Health Ice Center, the New York Islanders' practice facility that is about 1.5 miles away from the Islanders' old home, the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.
Riley, who was an assistant coach last season at Colgate University, was hired to be the team's first head coach on May 27. Riley's full-time assistant coaches (Will Messa and Joe Gilhooly) were named the same day that the announcement that Goepfert had been added to the staff.
How did Riley find Goepfert? Riley's father, Rob, was the head hockey coach for Army West Point from 1985-2004. Since leaving West Point, Rob has been an NHL scout and has worked for the Buffalo Sabres the last three seasons.
"My dad works with the Sabres and does a lot of their USHL scouting," Riley said. "Through the hockey world, we have a lot of mutual friends. My dad raved about Bobby.
"When he said he was going back to Long Island, a bunch of people reached out, thinking he would naturally come and be one of our assistant coaches. I hadn't spoken to him. I reached out later in the summer to gauge interest because I knew he had a lot up in the air with his family and coming back home and starting his own business with goalies."
Goepfert said that Riley first got in touch with him in August.
"I met with them in early September," he said. "I'm a proud of where I'm from and it's one of those things where, being involved, I understand the impact that this endeavor can be for the future of Long Island.
"In Minnesota, you have allegiances because you grow up and college hockey is such a fabric of it. I didn't really have that. I knew some schools, the big name schools out east. Not having that connection to a college program, I was envious when you see guys from different regions who have that ... I think that's something we can build here and give to the kids here on Long Island."
As Goepfert is finding his professional footing, he is also enjoying seeing his wife and kids connect with his family who are living on Long Island.
"I've got a million family members and it's been nice to reconnect," said Goepfert, whose wife is working for a preschool. "We call ourselves an Ellis Island family. We've got Irish, Germans and Italians. My mother's side, you throw a rock and you're going to hit a family member's house. If you have a good arm, you're going to hit my father's side of the family.
"My cousins are like my brothers and sisters. Having (my kids) experience that, it's been cool to see."
And he is enjoying watching his son Bobby play hockey and admits he remains competitive against his young son.
"It's the best and it's one of those things where, if he wants to play, great, but I'm not the pushiest (person)," Goepfert said. "When he asks to go to hockey, it makes me smile because it's fun to share the same passion. He likes scoring goals instead of stopping them, which is a bit of an adjustment. I've got to tend the net when we play mini hockey.
"I don't give him any either. He has to learn the hard way that you've got to earn it," he said with a laugh. "I've got to sleep at night, too. If he starts going bar-down on me and I'm letting goals in, that ruins my evening."