Marcel Richard resigns as Head Coach of the Auburn Tigers Hockey Club

Assistant Coach Ryan Rutz will take over as Head Coach of the team.
Coach Richard rallying his players during a difficult matchup against the UGA Ice Dawgs in this year’s Border War. Image via Matt Austin, 2021.

After eight seasons serving as the Head Coach of the Auburn Ice Hockey Club, Marcel Richard has decided to resign from his position effective immediately. His resignation has been accepted by the team and he will be replaced by former Assistant Coach Ryan Rutz entering the spring semester.

Richard leaves behind a considerable legacy in Auburn. As the longest tenured coach in program history, he amassed more wins that any bench boss ever had on the Plains and led the Tigers to many firsts, including the team’s first ever SECHC Tournament appearance, first SECHC Tournament win, and first win over Alabama’s D-II ACHA program.

Prior to Richard’s arrival, Auburn had issues maintaining a full roster and was regularly at the bottom of the conference standings. Now, after a long and successful span leading the team, he feels comfortable handing things off to Assistant Coach Ryan Rutz and this current group of players.

Richard behind the bench during Auburn’s 22-3 victory over Florida State in the Macon Veterans Memorial Cup. Image via Ben Dodds, 2021.

“I believe Auburn is a top three team (in this conference),” said Richard. "We can beat teams that used to think we were an easy team to beat in the past. Other coaches and referees have noticed that we are now playing great hockey. I feel like the team is in a good spot and that Ryan can handle it moving forward.”

When asked about why he chose now to leave the game, the former Head Coach said: “We had a long break and I had some flu or something. I really took some time to think about where I am directing my time. I have family coming to visit and have missed out on so much due to my coaching commitments. (With letting Rutz take over), it's kind of like parenting and then letting your kid go make their own decisions."

As the program’s second-ever head coach, Richard helped mold much of the last decade of Auburn Hockey. When asked what his proudest moment over that time was, he responded: “Seeing the kids come in that are shy and inexperienced, to seeing them turn into leaders and confident. (Them) getting into grad school or jobs is the end goal. Auburn and hockey helps them get there."

When Richard retired from his pro hockey career in the Central Hockey League and began coaching high school games in Columbus, Ga., he never would have guessed he’d spend so many years determining the direction of a fledgling club program at his wife’s alma mater. However, doing so is well within the parameters of why he coaches at all. As he said himself, “(I’m just) trying to give back to the sport that gave me so much."

Richard has coached eight classes of Auburn players, seeing the team through plenty of historic highs and painful lows.

Richard’s players had nothing but kind words for their coach as he departs to spend more time with his family. Said defenseman Jacob “JJ” Blanding: “He’s (Richard) a great guy who prioritized the overall character of his players over just the on-ice product. Marcel’s influence on Auburn Hockey is something I hope we never take for granted. We’ll miss having him on the bench and wish him the best of luck moving forward. War Damn Eagle to you, coach."

Team captain Blake Robison echoed Blanding’s sentiments, saying the following: “Coach Marcel gave lots of his time and energy to Auburn Hockey during a period when not a lot of other people were willing to do so. The program is not where it’s at today without him, and we want to thank him for that. Marcel always treated his players with respect and honesty, and I think that’s why everybody always wanted to play hard for him. We wish him and his family all the best and hope they know they’ll always be a part of the Auburn family."

With over 100 games as the head man behind the Auburn bench, Richard’s legacy is etched into every fiber of the program. His work will remain a foundational part of hockey at the school and in the greater Auburn-Opelika area for a while to come.

From the staff, fans, and players, thank you Coach, and War Eagle.