Experience is invaluable. Rick Zombo, the head coach for the Lindenwood University men’s ice hockey team, has plenty of experience.
Zombo played hockey in college for the University of North Dakota. He played three seasons for the Fighting Sioux, including one NCAA National Championship, and then decided it was time to take the next step to the pro level.
“It was one of the best decisions I’ve made in my life,” said Zombo.
Zombo then went on to play 13 seasons in the NHL for three different teams: the St. Louis Blues, Detroit Red Wings and Boston Bruins.
As a defenseman, Zombo was an important piece everywhere he played. He began his career with the Detroit Red Wings.
“I was very popular in Detroit,” said Zombo. “I felt like the team rolled on my shoulders.”
After spending eight years in the Red Wings system, Zombo was traded to the Blues.
With St. Louis, Zombo had the opportunity to face his old team on multiple occasions. He said there were no hard feelings between him and his old teammates.
“What we always did was fun,” said Zombo. “You would always have to put money up on the chalk board. And whoever scored the game winning goal against their old team got the money.”
Zombo finished up his career in Phoenix, with the Los Angeles Kings organization, after one year with the Boston Bruins.
After his retirement in 1998, Zombo began his coaching career.
His first coaching job was with the St. Louis Sting, a Tier II junior team. He also coached at the high school level at Marquette High School in Chesterfield, Mo.
In 2008, Zombo became an assistant coach at LU under Derek Schaub, the current head coach at the time. In those two seasons the team went 80-9-0 and won back-to-back ACHA championships.
In 2010, Zombo was announced as the second head coach of the Lions. Zombo’s players look to him as a leader, both as a coach and a role model.
“As a coach he stresses the importance of success in the classroom just as much as success on the ice,” said Zach Glazer, Lions senior forward. “Coach’s professional background in the game allows him to mold his players into respectful and responsible young men on and off the ice.”
Zombo’s experience as a player helped him become the coach he is today. He is still evolving as a coach. His players believe in what he says because he has the experience to back it up.
“Coach would do anything to help his players,” said Neeco Belanger, Lions senior forward. “We believe in our coach, and every time he speaks we listen because he knows hockey.”