Moving on: Potulny steps down, Comley named interim head hockey coach

Former Northern Michigan hockey coach Grant Potulny addresses his team during a break in play in a game against Michigan Tech on Saturday, Dec. 9, 2023, at the Berry Events Center in Marquette. (Photo courtesy of Northern Michigan University)

MARQUETTE — Northern Michigan University Athletics has announced that head hockey coach Grant Potulny will be stepping down to pursue a position at the professional hockey level and athletic director Rick Comley will be taking over as interim head coach, effective as of today. 

A national search for a new head coach will begin immediately.

Associate head coach Byron Pool and assistant coach Nick Peruzzi have also stepped down to accept coaching positions elsewhere.

Potulny led the Wildcats to a 12-16-6 overall and 10-10-4 conference record this past season and brought the Wildcats to two conference championship games (2020-21 WCHA, 2022-23 CCHA) in the past four seasons. Serving as head coach since the 2017-18 season, he began his career at NMU with back-to-back 20-plus win seasons. He finished with four 20-plus win seasons and concluded his career at Northern Michigan with a 128-113-17 overall and 95-69-11 conference mark. 

“Grant is a very good hockey coach and professional teams have realized that,” said Comley. “On behalf of Northern, I want to thank Grant and his staff for their outstanding work with the Wildcat Hockey program, and wish them great success with their new teams.”

“Like Rick, I want to also thank Grant for his strong seven seasons at Northern, and thank Byron and Nick, too,” NMU President Brock Tessman added. “Men’s ice hockey is one of NMU’s premier athletic programs and the only one at the NCAA Division I level, so it is incredibly fortunate to have one of the greatest coaches to ever stand behind NCAA Division I hockey bench here to guide our current and incoming players during this transition, and to work on the logistics of preparing for next season while we complete the national search this summer. Thank you, Rick. Wildcat Hockey is in great hands until we choose our new coach.”

Comley, who brought NCAA Division I national men’s hockey championships to both NMU (1991) and Michigan State University (2007), served Northern as athletic director for 13 years (1987-2000) before returning to athletic director duties in August of 2022.

NMU’s first and longest-serving head coach of the men’s hockey program, Comley is the Hobey Baker Memorial Award Foundation’s 2020 Legend of College Hockey recipient. He spent 26 years behind the Wildcat bench where he posted a 538-429-68 record while leading the ‘Cats to the 1991 national championship, four frozen-four appearances – including a runner-up finish in 1980 – seven NCAA Tournament appearances, six conference playoff championships, and two regular season championships. 

Comley began coaching at Lake Superior State University, where he spent three seasons (1973-76) as head coach. Comley then became the first head coach in NMU hockey program history in 1976, spending 26 seasons with the Wildcats as head boss before taking the head coach position at Michigan State (2002-11). Comley owns a combined 38-year career coaching record of 783-615-110, which ranks fifth on the all-time NCAA Division I coaching wins list. He was the NCAA Division I national coach of the year in 1980 and 1991 and runner-up in 2007. Comley retired from coaching in 2011. 

He was inducted into NMU’s Sports Hall of Fame in 1998, the Upper Peninsula Sports Hall of Fame in 2013, and the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame in 2023. 

Comley said details on the search timeline and search committee make-up, which will include former players, will be announced shortly. He added Wildcat hockey fans will be given the opportunity to meet the finalists and give input. Information about the position will be available soon on Northern’s Human Resource’s “Careers at NMU” website at nmu.edu/hr.


A press conference with NMU President Brock Tessman and interim head coach Rick Comley will take place on Wednesday, June 12 at 10:30 a.m.


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