He’s making his own way as a coach, far away from his hometown of Sault Ste. Marie.
Francis Anzalone in his first season as associate coach and director of player personnel with the Aberdeen Wings of the North American Hockey League — and he’s making a name for himself.
Anzalone was born into hockey when his father, Frank Anzalone, was coaching the Lake Superior State Lakers and leading them to their first of three Division 1, national championships back in 1988.
As he grew up around the game, Francis has stayed with it through scouting and coaching at increasingly-higher levels.
(See his profile above under accompanying photo.)
As he first learned about hockey from his dad, Francis also inherited the work ethic and attention to detail from his Brooklyn-born father.
Travis Winter, who is Aberdeen’s head coach and director of hockey operations, is in his first full season with the Wings after taking over what was a lowly, last-place team late in the 2012-2013 campaign and bringing it to within three points of a playoff spot.
As Winter committed to Aberdeen for the 2013-2014 campaign and beyond, one of the first things he did last off-season was to re-unite himself with Anzalone, with whom he had worked in secondary roles in the United States Hockey League.
The 29-year old Winter can’t say enough about his sidekick Anzalone.
“He’s thorough and a true student of the game,” Winter said of Anzalone. “His work ethic and attention to detail is a major factor in what we do in Aberdeen.”
To be sure, it was Winter who revived the Wings of Aberdeen when he took over last season, inheriting a team that had a record of 8-24-4 and sparking it to a 15-6-3 finish and that near-playoff miss.
But as Winter has laid the blueprint for the current edition of the Wings who are a solid third in the NAHL’s Central Division with a record of 25-17-3, there is no doubt of the contributions Anzalone has made to the Aberdeen program.
As Winter has quickly made a name for himself as a bright, innovative, up-and-coming coach, Anzalone’s work is being noticed and held in high regard inside and outside NAHL circles.
There’s something to be said about well-educated young men who use their university degrees and academic prowess and apply it to hockey and player development.
Winter is one of those shining examples.
And so too is Anzalone, the Sault Ste. Marie kid who has taken his good name and hockey acmen out to Aberdeen, South Dakota.