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Talafous joins Crusaders staff as 'master coach'

Humbled by the lessons a life in hockey have provided, Dean Talafous is getting back into coaching.

The MnJHL's Hudson Crusaders announced last week that Talafous has accepted an offer to become the team's master coach, a duty that will allow his watchful eye to scour nearly every aspect of Hudson's on-ice activities.

From the coaches to the players, Talafous will be overlooking everything. And as he embarks on this opportunity, the 55-year-old admitted his views have most definitely changed over the years.

"I haven't coached in eight years," said Talafous. "I've been in the skill development aspect of the game, and it's been really refreshing and good for me. When I was a coach, it was win at all costs. I was a total different personality. I've been humbled. I look back at my coaching career and I don't know if I really developed players with their skill base. I know that wasn't right, and if I can take what I've learned in my 50s now being in the developmental side, I think I'll be a pretty good coach."

Truth be told, Talafous was that a decade ago. A veteran of over 500 National Hockey League games with the Minnesota North Stars and New York Rangers, Talafous got into coaching after retiring as a player in 1982. He won a Division III college national championship at UW-River Falls, and he also spent time as both an assistant at the University of Minnesota and as the head coach for the University of Alaska-Anchorage.

At each of those stops, he sharpened his skates on an idea that winning cut the paychecks. That's no longer the case, and it's changed his priorities.

"I'd rather lose 13-11 than 2-1," Talafous said. "Trapping and dumping the puck and putting all kinds of conditions on how they play isn't development. That is very clear to me. We need to let them play with their instincts and allow them to fail and make mistakes for their development."

That's been precisely what Talafous has been doing with his business - Total Hockey-Hudson - an internationally acclaimed hockey training center that has branched off into 10 locations across North America.

In fact, that connection led to the one Talafous eventually formed with the Crusaders. Each of the past two seasons, Talafous said he spent one day a week with the team. Hudson General Manager Harry Urschel wanted more, so he went and got it.

"Harry put a spin on it for me," Talafous said. "He said, Dean, 'just develop our players and work with the coaches. Do what you need to do because we need you to be involved.' Right now, it's wide open, but I'll be involved in just about everything."

Said Urschel, "It is truly an honor to have Dean, one of the legends of hockey and at the same time a visionary at training athletes, join our organization. The players, coaches and staff can only benefit from his guidance."

Talafous' feelings were much the same.

"I'm really excited; this will be good for me," he said. "This is a good league, and it is a meaningful league. The first and second year the Crusaders were here, I was surprised by how good they were. They were kids that were really competitive and smart and had some real leadership skills. There are a lot of players that fall through the cracks for various reasons, and hopefully we can help them continue to develop."