Four hockey players stand in the parking lot of a visiting facility, holding their bag and dressed in their road attire of khakis and polo shirts. In the middle of the group, is a man in a dress shirt and slack, fiddling with his neck tie and making all kinds of noises closely associated with frustration. A 5th member of the visiting team approaches and the man in the dress shirt states the following, “(Brian) Duchesne, you’re the captain, tie this (expletive) thing for me!!!”, as the group busts out in laughter.
The man in the dress shirt is the Head Coach of the Harrisburg Lunatics Pro and Minor teams, Ron Gilbert and this scene (which is completely 110% true) took place as the minor league Tics were about to embark on a two game set in Pottstown with Team Blue back in mid-October. Normally, a coach is kind of estranged from players in a way. For the most part they tend to be older than most of the players and don’t tend to hang with them in social situations. Coach Gilbert is the obvious exception to this stereotype. Always traveling to away games with players, joking around, Coach is a different sort, and his players respect him for it. Ron is coming to the end of his second season as the man in charge and will lead the Pro troops into the PIHA playoffs this weekend at the Inline Skating Club of America in New Jersey. The Tics are looking for a long playoff run with Ron at the helm, especially because once this season comes to an end, so will Ron’s tenure as head coach.
Coach Gilbert was named the team’s man in charge back in the Summer of 2011, shortly after his predecessor, the legendary Todd Wiley stepped aside to spend more time with his family. Knowing he had huge shoes to fill, Ron went right to work, working closely with Pro Captain Jay Mazer in implementing his system and starting to piece together a Pro and 2 Minor rosters, full of talent and expecting a long and successful run for the Tics organization. The hard work put in by Ron and his assistant Rick Canulli was tireless and for the players, some knowing him from his years coaching youth teams in the area, worked tirelessly as well. Although some bad luck and missed opportunities befell all teams and the season came to a close way too early. That didn’t deter Ron from coming back even hungrier and ready to put the Tics back on the map of class organizations.
“I think when all three teams didn’t live up to expectations last season, Ron took it personally. I think he felt like he owed the organization better than what he thought was given”, said minor league veteran Alex DeFrank. “I really enjoyed being on Ron’s team the last two seasons. He is a real players coach and is one of the guys. Always there to tell you what you did well but always teaching you things you can improve on.” DeFrank went on to say, “I’m going to miss him being there, telling me how slow I am at practice”, chuckling while recalling one of the lighter Tic moments.
‘We were very happy and excited when Ron came to us and said he wanted to step up and replace Todd,” said longtime Pro Captain Jay Mazer, when describing how the scenario of Ron coaching the team came about. “We knew we needed a hockey guy, a fun guy, but a serious guy, one that knows the game but also knows when the players need a quick laugh to make things loose. He makes jokes and has fun but when he shows up with that game face on, we know it’s time to be all business.”
Coach has decided to step away from the organization for personal reasons, to spend more time with his family, his wife Amy and their sons Dylan and Tyler. Tyler will also be embarking on his freshman year of college this fall, while playing hockey and Coach wants to be able to see his son play at a high level. We here at the Harrisburg Lunatics want to wish Coach Ron all the luck on his ‘retirement’ and hope to see Ron around ‘The Asylum’ soon. Good luck Coach!!!