MACON, Ga. – The square-shaped room nestled in the Macon Mayhem locker room at the Macon Coliseum will always bring back memories for Macon Mayhem head coach Nick Niedert.
As the Mayhem’s new head coach points out, it’s in the very same room that he now occupies to handle his day-to-day duties in Macon that also was also the scene of some of the most vivid memories of the early part of a pro hockey career that began in 2004 with teams that included the Macon Trax and its head coach, Tommy Stewart.
“I remember walking in this exact office. Tommy Stewart was sitting exactly where I am sitting right now. He said, ‘we’re going to hold onto you, for now’,” Niedert said. “My first win was here, there are so many memories. The first time I got released was in this room, there’s lots of great memories here and being released, that made me grow up fast.”
New memories await for Niedert and the Mayhem, who open the season Friday at home against Huntsville.
“It’s a great locker room. The guys are coming together. The leadership is doing an outstanding job,” Niedert said.
But Niedert almost never ended up being Macon’s head coach. In fact, following last year’s tumultuous season in which he was at the helm for Vermilion County’s expansion year, Niedert had all but decided that he was ready to walk away from coaching. But that was before heeding some fatherly advice and spending time at a camp with one of his former coaches, Rod Davidson currently of Binghamton in the FPHL.
“I wasn’t sure if I’d ever want to coach again when I left and drove out of town. I was pretty adamant that I’d never do it again,” Niedert said.
“My dad was like, ‘you need to go, you need to go enjoy it.’ I went there and it rejuvenated the (heck) out of me,” Niedert said. “The guys were great there, and that kind of set the ball in motion for this year. I’m thankful that I did that and listened to my father.”
In terms of chemistry, Macon’s new bench boss likes what he is seeing.
“What we’re doing here is we’re building something, the attitude of the room is phenomenal. The guys are moving in the right direction. I couldn’t be happier with what the guys have given so far.”
Niedert has already shown that he is not afraid to wheel and deal with the roster, pulling off two trades in the last two weeks. On Wednesday, Macon traded for Quad City defenseman Matt Stoia a week before shipping last year’s captain Joseph Drapluk to Peoria for future considerations.
So why trade away last year’s captain? For Niedert, it was quite simple. Or as he calls it, a “graduation gift” for the veteran.
“He was the leader of the team last year. He was the captain last year, he did all that he could, and the organization that we moved him to is a great organization. They have an extremely high standard, and he’s going to fit in great there,” Niedert said. “We went in a different direction because we’re building. We have a foundation, and we’re moving forward. He did all that he could here last year; it was a ‘graduate appreciation,’ I guess. We said to him that he deserved to be in a great situation this year. I wanted him to get into a situation that was established, and I didn’t want him to go through another build like he did last year. I told him, ‘it’s a fresh start for you and for this organization.'”
Neidert starts his Macon coaching career tonight, as the Mayhem host the Huntsville Havoc. Faceoff at the Coliseum is set for 7:30 pm.
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