Western Michigan’s hockey season is just over two months away, but the Broncos will have a new coach behind the bench for the first time in a decade.
Andy Murray and WMU announced Tuesday that Murray was stepping down as WMU’s coach after 10 seasons, a 167-156-43 record and two NCAA tournament appearances. WMU will promote assistant coach Pat Ferschweiler to the top spot.
Ferschweiler, 51, was an assistant under Murray in his most recent stint at WMU. Prior to that, the WMU alum was a Detroit Red Wings (2015-19) and Grand Rapids Griffins (2014-15) assistant under former WMU coach Jeff Blashill, Murray’s predecessor who also hired Ferschweiler at WMU in 2010.
“I’m excited to be able to hand the reins of our Bronco Hockey team over to one of our own, Pat Ferschweiler,” WMU athletics director Kathy Beauregard said in a statement Tuesday. “Pat showed his leadership qualities as a player for the Broncos, as an assistant coach and as our associate head coach.
“As a recruiter, Coach Ferschweiler has attracted some of the best talent ever to play at Western Michigan. I look forward to his new leadership role as the head coach of our hockey program with a goal of our team regular competing for championships while continuing to excel in the classroom.”
The Broncos went 10-12-3 under Murray last season, capping their NCHC season with a 5-4 loss to Minnesota Duluth in the conference quarterfinals.
Murray’s 167 wins are the second-most in WMU history, behind Bill Wilkinson’s 313 from 1982-99. (Ferschweiler played for Wilkinson from 1990-93.) He was hired by WMU in 2011 after Blashill was hired to coach the Wings’ AHL affiliate. Under Murray, the Broncos made the NCAA tournament in 2012 and 2017. Before arriving in Kalamazoo, Murray, who turned 70 in March, was a head coach in the NHL with the Los Angeles Kings and St. Louis Blues. He was inducted into the IIHF Hall of Fame as a builder in 2012 after coaching Team Canada to world golds in 1997, 2003 and 2007.
“The last 10 years at WMU have been as rewarding as anything I have done in my life,” Murray said in a statement Tuesday. “I am in great health and full of energy, so this is not a retirement. I still have a number of things on my bucket list and now is the time to pursue those.
“My goal has always been to have our program in great shape when I did decide to move on,” Murray added. “We are in that position right now and the transition to Pat will be smooth and well-received by our present players and alumni. He is a Bronco and is well prepared.”
Ferschweiler has never been a head coach in college or the pros, but before arriving at WMU, he led the Russell Stover U18 team in the Midwest Elite Hockey League while building a youth hockey organization in Kansas City, Missouri.
“I am honored and humbled to be the next head coach of the Western Michigan hockey program,” Ferschweiler said. “I want to thank (Western Michigan President Edward) Montgomery, athletics director Kathy Beauregard and deputy athletics director Jeff Stone for trusting me to lead this program.”
The Broncos open the 2021-22 season with a pair of games against Ferris State on Oct. 8-9 and will play a home-and-home series against Michigan on Oct. 22 (in Ann Arbor) and Oct. 23. WMU is also scheduled to play in the 2021 Great Lakes Invitational against Michigan State (on Dec. 29) and Michigan (on Dec. 30). The first GLI since 2019 will take place on college campuses for the first time, rather than in Detroit, with WMU traveling to East Lansing and Ann Arbor. (Michigan Tech will come down from Houghton to serve as the fourth team in the GLI.)