The Shreveport Mudbugs, proud members of the North American League, have announced that Francis Anzalone has been hired as the team’s associate head coach ahead of its first season in the NAHL.
A native of Sault Ste. Marie, Mich., Anzalone has spent seven seasons working in the NAHL and USHL and brings a wealth of knowledge and league experience to the Shreveport coaching staff.
“I feel very fortunate to be joining the Shreveport Mudbugs,” Anzalone said. “The vision of the organization, the quality of the people involved and the passionate fan base makes this a very intriguing opportunity.”
Mudbugs general manager Scott Muscutt said the addition of Anzalone bolsters a Shreveport franchise whose culture is built around character and passion for hockey and community.
“The Mudbugs are extremely excited to have Francis join our club,” Muscutt said. “He brings extensive NAHL experience and his energy, work ethic, attention to detail and passion for the game makes him a pro. He brings a long history and ability to develop and advance players to college hockey. He also not only possesses character, but has always demanded it from his players.”
The 28-year-old most recently served as head coach of the NAHL’s Aberdeen Wings. In Anzalone’s three seasons with the Wings, fifteen players advanced to the Division I level. In addition, five of the six goaltenders Anzalone coached made Division I commitments, including future UND Fighting Hawk Peter Thome, who was selected by the Columbus Blue Jackets in the sixth round of the NHL draft last month.
Prior to his time in Aberdeen, Anzalone spent four seasons with the USHL’s Cedar Rapids RoughRiders, working as a scout before being promoted to assistant coach. Alongside Shreveport head coach Karlis Zirnis, Anzalone believes his time spent in the top two junior leagues in the country will benefit the Mudbugs on and off the ice.
“I want to take all of my experiences and all of the knowledge I’ve gained and use it to help the organization and the players,” Anzalone said. “I want to help accelerate the process of fostering the right culture and help build a great program that the fans in Shreveport will be proud of and the right people in the hockey world will connect with.”
Behind the Shreveport bench, Anzalone and Zirnis will continue a hockey relationship they’ve had since 2008 when the new associate head coach worked at the bantam AAA level. Anzalone and Zirnis met at the Elite Edge Hockey Showcase in Nashville, which has further fostered the partnership between TPH and the Mudbugs.
Additionally, Anzalone’s father, Frank, was a longtime professional and collegiate coach and has worked in the same circles as Muscutt. The elder Anzalone is presently the NCAA Scout for the NHL’s Calgary Flames.
In Shreveport’s first season in the NAHL, Anzalone hopes to make an impact on the Mudbugs players and community.
“I love to teach and I love to make an impact on the players, not only as athletes but also as people,” he said. “I’m going to do everything I can to support and grow the vision of the Mudbugs and help each individual player be the best that he can be on and off the ice.”
Total Package Hockey is pleased to announce the addition of Francis Anzalone to its executive team, as the company prepares for its 16th year as a leader in the on and off-ice development of student-athletes. Anzalone spent the 2016-2017 season as the Associate Head Coach of the Shreveport Mudbugs in the North American Hockey League. TPH helped oversee the hockey operation of the Mudbugs during Anzalone’s tenure in Shreveport, and will continue to do so moving forward.
“We are excited to have Francis play a much bigger role in the TPH family,” President Nathan Bowen said. “His organizational, communication and leadership skills, combined with his passion for mentoring players, will assist us in maximizing our ability to positively impact the lives of our student-athletes, while growing our brand at the same time.”
Anzalone will serve as Vice-President for the TPH Way. In his role, the 29-year-old will develop strategies to strengthen the culture of TPH, by first and foremost, implementing a life skills and leadership program that will eventually reach all TPH teams and programs, starting with the newly founded Center of Excellence Hub. He will interact with TPH athletes on a daily basis, and help craft new ways to accelerate the development of players who train in TPH programs. In addition, Anzalone will take on a management and advisory role with the Shreveport Mudbugs, and maintain his connection to an organization that received NAHL Franchise of the Year honors last season.
“I am extremely grateful for this expanded role within TPH,” Anzalone said. “This is an incredible career and life opportunity that doesn’t come around every day. I love development. It’s more than a buzz-word. It’s an art. It’s something I have a passion for. To have the opportunity to work alongside likeminded people who share that passion is an absolute thrill. To then be able to use that collective passion to make our people and our process better in this new role created by TPH is something I just could not pass up.”
Prior to his time in Shreveport, Anzalone spent three seasons with the NAHL’s Aberdeen Wings. He was Associate Head Coach in 2013-2014, before being promoted to Head Coach for the 2014-2015 campaign. Before that, the Sault Ste. Marie, MI native worked for the Cedar Rapids RoughRiders of the USHL for four seasons. He occupied a variety of positions for the RoughRiders, ranging from Regional Scout to Assistant Coach. Francis has been coaching at the youth, amateur and junior levels since he was 18. It was early in Anzalone’s career, when he was introduced to Nathan Bowen, and immediately became involved in the Elite Edge Hockey Showcase, held each June in Nashville.
Bowen adds that the addition of Anzalone to TPH’s executive team is just the beginning of a renewed commitment to a vision that has been growing year after year since the founding of the company in 2001.
“The mission of TPH is to perform at a standard that exceeds expectations, one choice at a time. The decision to make a greater investment in the growth of our athletes by adding this position and putting a person like Francis in the role is a choice that we know will have a great impact for years to come.”
COACH ANZALONE AND COACH ZIRNIS JOIN TEAM LATVIA AT UPCOMING 2018 WORLD JUNIOR HOCKEY CHAMPIONSHIPS
Total Package Hockey is pleased to announce that Francis Anzalone, Vice-President, TPH Way, and Karlis Zirnis, former TPH coach/instructor and current Head Coach of TPH hockey partner, the Shreveport Mudbugs, will team up to coach the Latvian Under-20 Men’s Hockey Team at the upcoming 2018 World Junior Hockey Championships in Meribel, France next month. This assignment will reunite Zirnis and Anzalone, who coached together in Shreveport during the 2016-2017 season, when the tandem helped guide the expansion Mudbugs to a successful 35-win inaugural season in the NAHL.
“We are very excited for Karlis and Francis to coach together on this big stage,” TPH Managing Partner Nathan Bowen said.
“Karlis and Francis share the same amount of passion for getting the most of out players. While their personalities and leadership styles differ, they see the job of a coach, the game of hockey and the vision for their teams the exact same. They made a great one-two punch last season in Shreveport and I know they will give their best with Team Latvia.”
Zirnis began coaching with TPH after retiring from professional hockey in 2010. He guided teams at the Bantam and Midget levels for TPH, coaching in the Thunder ‘AAA’ organization. He also led the NA3HL’s Nashville Jr. Predators for two seasons, amassing an impressive 73-17-4 record. After a memorable first season in the NAHL last year, Zirnis has the Mudbugs off to a terrific 16-4-1-1 start through the first 22 games of the 17-18 NAHL season.
The 2018 World Junior Hockey Championships will be another one of many assignments Zirnis has had on the international stage. The Riga, Latvia native has served in various coaching roles for his native country at numerous international events, including the 2014 Olympics in Sochi, Russia, where the 40 year old was as an Assistant Coach on Ted Nolan’s staff. The upcoming World Junior Championships will be Zirnis’ first assignment as a Head Coach for Team Latvia.
Anzalone returns to the bench after transitioning into an executive role with TPH back in July. Prior to coaching alongside Zirnis in Shreveport last season, Anzalone guided the NAHL’s Aberdeen Wings for three seasons, spending two as Head Coach. Before that, the Sault Ste. Marie, MI native spent four seasons with the USHL’s Cedar Rapids Roughriders, serving in various roles from Regional Scout to Assistant Coach. It was while coaching ‘AAA’ hockey and scouting for Cedar Rapids back in 2010 that Anzalone was first introduced to Zirnis. The two met at the Elite Edge Hockey Showcase in Nashville, TN and have grown their relationship ever since.
“Total Package Hockey has always been about connecting quality, like-minded people and building relationships so that we can make a positive impact on the lives of our student-athletes. Former NHL Coach and Stanley Cup Champion, Bob Hartley and the Latvian Federation believe in the impact that Karlis and Francis can have on the country’s top junior players. This speaks volumes to the kind of people, coaches and instructors that TPH student-athletes are consistently working with.” Bowen added. And it is just that, relationships, that Managing Partner Nathan Bowen has always taken pride in.