Tim Madsen spent 11 years at Niagara University, both as a player and a coach for the Purple Eagles hockey team. After leaving the area in 2016 to go back to his native Minnesota and coach in the North American Hockey League, Madsen is back, and still working in hockey. Now, however, instead of coaching a team, he’s working to help younger players realize their dreams of playing hockey at the junior and college levels.
“I’m moving forward in just a little different capacity,” he said. “I’m really excited about the change.”
Madsen recently started NexLevel Hockey, a consulting company that works with young players who want to play either junior hockey or NCAA college hockey. With experience at all three of those levels of the game, Madsen knows what it takes to make it.
“I wanted to find a way to stay in hockey, and this was a logical way to do it,” he said. “It’s all the experience I've gathered the last 12 years as a coach to try to help young players out.”
Through NexLevel, Madsen hopes to act as an advisor and mentor for players who sign on with him. The service is for top-tier players and, along with Madsen, features a host of coaches, scouts and NCAA recruiters on the staff.
“It’s an opportunity to mentor kids, and more importantly, families,” he said. “Hockey is like no other sport in that there is a level between high school and college. Junior hockey is a necessity nowadays.”
Athletes and their families have a number of decisions facing them when it comes to making the jump to a junior program, including where to play, in order to have the best chance at landing in a college hockey program. They also may have some difficult issues to face, such as being cut or being benched. For the players he works with, Madsen and his staff will be there every step of the way.
“Having the experience at the college and junior levels, I can help guide them through the process,” he said. “A lot of parents have questions and may be uneducated because hockey is a unique sport. At the end of the day, I’m selling my experience to families, and it's a lot easier to listen to someone who's been there before as opposed to someone that hasn't been.”
Players signing on with Madsen have to be 100% committed to playing hockey at a higher level. They must be all-in, he says, or else it’s not worth it.
“If they’re not all-in for doing it, I don’t want to do it,” he said.
Once the seasons start for the players he’s working with, Madsen figures he’ll be in ice rinks five or six nights a week watching his players play. It’s a 24/7 job, and Madsen is always available for his players.
“Say a kid is in a scoring slump and hasn’t scored in 10 games,” he said. “Maybe I'd send them an article on Jack Eichel who hasn’t scored in 10 games and maybe that motivates the kid a little bit. It's little things like that without stepping on his coach’s toes. Little things like that can really help a player and help a family achieve their goals.”
Madsen moved back to the Niagara region in April and couldn’t be happier to be back. After spending 11 years at Niagara, it feels like home.
“It was just a gut feeling,” he said, referring to coming back to the area. “I don’t know how to explain it.”
Madsen is also excited to watch the current crop of Purple Eagles when their season starts back up. He still has fond memories of being a player and a coach. He keeps in contact with his teammates from the mid-2000s, and several of them were in his wedding four year ago. He’s also proud of the success the program had while he served first as an assistant coach and then as an associate head coach from 2009 to 2016.
“It’s such a different feeling when you’re an alumnus,” he said. “Going to the NCAA Tournament in 2013 was very special for me as a coach because I didn’t get to play in the 2008 NCAA Tournament because I was injured. So, I got to see how much the players enjoyed that special experience. And again, the coaching opportunity led to a career working in hockey. I owe it all to the university and the hockey program.”