Photos: Courtesy of Colorado Hockey Hub

By Matt Mackinder

Colorado Hockey Hub & Colorado Rubber Magazine Writer

Editor: Clarkson (MI) News

October 1, 2020

As junior hockey seasons slowly kick into high gear, the NA3HL began its 2020-21 season last month.

The Great Falls Americans announced at the start of this past offseason the addition of Vail native Kirk Golden as the team’s associate coach.

Now, some six months later, the former Aspen Junior Hockey coach and the rest of the Americans are 2-0 following two home-ice wins last weekend.

“I got word that there was a coaching position open out in Great Falls,” said Golden. “I talked to some buddies who played there in the past, and only heard good things. I reached out to (Great Falls coach-GM) Greg Sears and we just seemed to click.”

“I am excited to have Kirk on board,” added Sears. “He has a very good resume as both a player and a coach and I think he is going to be very valuable to our program.”

Great Falls has a rich hockey history to boot.

The Americans played Junior A in the American Frontier Hockey League in the 90s. They then moved to the American West Hockey League before continuing to where they are now in the NA3HL.

Golden, like the players with the Montana-based Americans, has goals set for himself this season.

“I aim to improve our players as individuals and teammates, which will ultimately lead to results on the ice, and college opportunities for them,” said Golden. “Great Falls is a very reputable junior hockey program, and we have another solid team this year. Our goal is to win our division and then test our mettle at Nationals.

“As associate coach, I help recruit and work with our guys during the week preparing for our upcoming games. I am also our strength and conditioning coach, meaning I run the off-ice and gym sessions.”

During his playing days, Golden won a 17U Tier I national championship with Shattuck St. Mary’s in Faribault, Minn., as a senior. He also grew up playing for the Vail Avalanche youth program before heading up to Shattuck.

“I had a great coach in Craig Norwich, who previously coached at Shattuck St. Mary’s,” Golden said. “He was kind of my connection to Shattuck, and I ended up heading that way to finish my high school days. There, I had amazing coaches in Murray Eaves and John Sumner, and then also Tom Ward and Eric Soltys. They helped grow my love and knowledge for the game immensely. The late JP Parisé was our director of hockey, and was a wonderful influence to everyone, always pushing ‘just be a good person.”

He spent two years in the NAHL with the Lone Star Cavalry (2003-04), Santa Fe Roadrunners and Cleveland Barons (2004-05). He then moved up to play hockey at the collegiate level where he attended and played for Hobart College (2005-09), a NCAA Division III school in Geneva, N.Y., where he helped the Statesmen make the D-III national tournament in three of his four years.

Golden played professional hockey after his college days in Germany, France, Sweden, Australia and New Zealand, as well as in the Federal Hockey League (now FPHL).

After stepping back as a player, his main focus became player development and during the 2015-16 season in Hong Kong, he helped guide the youth program and the Hong Kong Select teams.

“After my fifth year playing professionally in Europe, I looked into a youth program coaching position in Hong Kong,” Golden said. “I thought it would be a great opportunity to see that part of the world and still be involved in hockey. I had always taught hockey development on the side after college, but it was in Hong Kong where I discovered that I loved coaching. I was lucky to not have to fully step away as a player until this year. There was a decent league that I played in in Hong Kong, and then when I was coaching in Aspen, I would drive up to Vail and play for their semi-pro team, the Vail Yeti.”

Prior to coming to Great Falls, Golden was in Aspen, where he served in numerous roles in their hockey community.  He was an assistant coach for Aspen High School during the 2016-17 season before becoming coaching coordinator for the youth program the following season. The 2018-19 season saw Golden become the head of player development for Aspen Junior Hockey.

Golden spent two seasons at the helm of the girls 19U A and AA programs, where he led the teams to Colorado state titles (2018-19, 2019-20). He coached the 19U A team to back-to-back undefeated seasons, going 51-0-1.

“I had a great time coaching in Colorado,” said Golden. “Shaun Hathaway did a great job with Aspen Junior Hockey. The girls AA program and AJH’s collaboration with the Finnish Ice Hockey Association were two of the highlights.”

Looking ahead, Golden is excited to see the season unfold in Montana and wants to keep all of his options available for the future.

“I love the game of hockey,” Golden said. “My goal is to continue teaching and guiding young athletes to reach their potential. Through hockey, I hope to instill principles and skills that will also be applicable to everyday life. Long term, I could see myself staying coaching in juniors or possibly move to the college level. I would also love to potentially be the director of hockey in a ski town.”

Story Courtesy: Colorado Hockey Hub: Golden brings Vail roots to NA3HL’s Americans, will serve as associate coach for Montana Club (October 1, 2020)