There’s a new name as the head coach of Stevenson High School.
Well, sort of.
Dan Wood, 33, who lives in Milwaukee, begins his first season as the Patriots’ head coach in the fall, which will be his first time as a high school varsity head coach. But Dan is following the skates of his older brother, Tom, and dad, Jim, who formerly served as the Stevenson varsity head coach.
Dan enters his 11th season coaching Stevenson in the fall, his alma mater where he has held numerous coaching roles, including JV assistant coach (2 seasons), JV White co-head coach (1 season) and varsity assistant coach (8 seasons). During Dan’s run on the Stevenson bench, the Patriots won the school’s first and only varsity state championship (2021-2022), were runners-up in the Varsity USA Hockey Nationals (2021-2022), were varsity state runner-up (2017-2018), and three-time participants in the state tournament final four. Plus, Dan was a Stevenson coach for the 2013 JV state championship and more.
Dan also is the head coach and hockey director at DePaul University. He has been with the DePaul program since 2020. Since taking over the program, he's led DePaul from a consistent 27th-35th ranked team in the region to being ranked 5th in the region last season and 12th in the nation.
He will coach Stevenson and DePaul in the 2023-24 season.
And he has the same goals that both past Coach Wood carried: “We always (want) to go to the United Center and compete for a state championship,” he said. “To do that, we need to grow and develop a lot of new players who are coming to the team this year.”
Wood played four varsity seasons on defense for Stevenson – with his brother and dad as his high school coaches. Dan then played four years at Miami University of Ohio on its ACHA D2 team.
Dan graduated from Stevenson in 2008 and began coaching in 2012.
The Coach Wood legacy continues at Stevenson.
“The amount of time and energy that my family has put into Stevenson Hockey, you become very emotionally invested in the program,” Dan said. “My dad put in so much time and energy to become a part of the school and grow the program. My brother spent countless hours developing presentations that he could show the players, so that they could be the most prepared players. Even my wife Katie, who had never been to a hockey game before she met me, is on the board as a treasurer. She is the main person behind the scenes who makes Stevenson Hockey such a great experience for the players.
“My dad and my brother taught me everything I know about coaching. My dad was always incredibly organized and passionate about the program. He was a great motivator and genuinely cared about every one of his players. My brother is an endless supply of hockey knowledge. He knows everything you can know about X’s and O’s, plus he was a massive believer in developing a good culture. I really lucked out by being able to learn so much from them.”
Jim and Tom Wood are the only father/son duo that had been named the Blackhawks Alumni Coach of the Year award-winners.
Now Dan resumes the leadership for a perennial powerhouse that skates in the state’s toughest division: the Scholastic Hockey League (SHL), where opponents include such state powers as Loyola Gold, Glenbrook North, Glenbrook South and Saint Viator. Oh yeah, defending state champion New Trier Green and 2023 state runner-up York also are SHL foes.
“Stevenson Hockey has been an incredibly important part of my life. I have played or coached at Stevenson for half of my life and want to continue growing the program and make an impact on players’ lives,” said Dan, who will be running Stevenson like a college team: “Introducing more frequent, less time- intensive video sessions to help teach players more about the game.” He added, “I am looking at bringing more technology to the high school level that is more prevalent at the college level.”
Wood inherits a Stevenson team that will look drastically different when the puck drops in a few months. The Patriots graduated 20 players, including SHL Player of the Year Davis Jegers, who was a 4-year varsity player and Dylan Jette, who was an All-State player and fellow 4-year varsity player. The Patriots also lost Will Harlow, a 4-year varsity player and captain for three years.
“Those three (players) had a massive impact on the program and they are leaving behind an amazing legacy,” Dan said.
The Patriots have only three returning players: Jimmy Brown, Brian Wojdelko, and Sean Yurkov. “These three were great players on the team this past season as sophomores, and I am expecting them to make a massive impact this year as upper classmen.”
Dan will be joined on the Stevenson varsity bench by two assistants who also have strong ties to the program.
* Marc Shellist has been with the varsity team since 2017-18. He originally came on as a statistician to be around the team and his son who was on the team. Marc eventually had three sons (Ari, Jacob and Sam) skate for the Patriots.
* Brian Murtha skated with Dan at Stevenson and was the Patriots’ co-captain as a senior. He has coached in multiple roles at Stevenson since 2014.
“I am excited for the first game of the season. I think we are going to surprise people with how competitive we are,” Dan said. “It also is going to be a bit emotional. It will be the first time in a decade that I am not coaching with my brother, though he still calls me all the time to see how the team is looking.
“The Scholastic League is such an amazing league. Every game is a battle. If you don’t bring your best game every night, you are going to struggle. But that struggle pays off at the end of the year, when you play in the big playoff games. By that time of year, you have been playing against the best teams every single night and you are more prepared for playoff hockey.”
Dan stated coached in 2012 alongside former Stevenson JV head coach Tim Johannes, who Wood praised for empowering the then-new coach to own different aspects of the team, such as the power play, penalty kill, etc. In two seasons coaching with Johannes, they won the first state championship in Stevenson Hockey history.
Jim Wood retired in 2016 and Tom skated into the head coaching role.
In 2018, Dan coached the Stevenson JV White team with his dad, bringing him out of retirement for the role, in addition to coaching the varsity team with his brother. The JV White team won the league championship, and the varsity team went to the state championship for the first time in history.
Dan started coaching at DePaul University as an assistant in 2020, but due to COVID, the team did not play games that season. The following two seasons, he has been the head coach and hockey director at DePaul, and last season the Blue Demons were ranked 5th in the Central Region and 12th in the nation.
Dan is joined on the Blue Demons bench by Stevenson alum Sean Hammond, who was a sophomore when Dan was a senior.
“I have some big shoes to fill,” Dan said. “When my dad took over the program, the team was ranked 32nd in the state. He then led the team to several league championships, state tournament elite eight round and countless tournament championships, solidifying Stevenson as a top team every year. Then my brother took over with the goal of getting past the elite eight and winning a state championship.” Stevenson went three times to the state final four under Tom Wood, plus two state championship games.
“I always (saw) myself coaching. I got to see how much my brother and my dad enjoyed it. They always talked about how rewarding it is to be a coach and they are so right. They would always say that (a coach) can make an impact on future leaders in the world. On every team you have guys who can become anything in the world, and you can have a positive impact during some of the most important years of their lives. It is a special thing to be a coach and something that I love to do.”
Especially since he’s coached some truly memorable games, starting with the Illinois High School Hockey State Championship game, played at the United Center.
“I remember players coming off the ice from warm-ups (of the state championship) saying, ‘That was the coolest thing ever,’ and they hadn’t even played a shift yet,” Dan said. “Winning the state championship with my brother in 2022 was surreal. It was such an amazing season and I was so happy to be able to share that with him.
“I coach (because) it is so much fun and that really is how I like to coach. I describe myself as a player’s-coach. I want my players to have as much fun as I had when I played and when I coach. I like to play an up-tempo game that allows our players to really be creative. It is a fun style to play, especially when you have very creative players.”
Dan will, no doubt, lead Stevenson to yet another successful season and, despite losing so many key players to graduation, the Patriots will be a team to reckon with next January and February in league and state tournament battles.
When he applied for the job, Dan just wanted to get an interview.
He was thrilled when Stevenson athletic director Trish Betthauser called to offer him the head coaching position.
“I am very excited to continue to grow the program and continue to be one of the top teams in the state,” he said. “It is really cool that Stevenson is now considered one of the top high school teams (because) that was not always the case. Before my dad took over the program, Stevenson was considered a weak program. I want to continue what my dad and brother have done to get the program to where it is now.”
Especially since Dan formerly wore the Patriots’ green and gold uniform, an ever-steady, always-solid right-handed-shooting defenseman.
“It is very cool to be a coach at your old high school. I always enjoy it when people find out that I played at Stevenson. It makes it a lot easier to talk about the program from a student-athlete perspective, not just a coaches’ perspective,” Dan said.
“I have lots of different (playing) memories, a lot of them start with my family. I remember being a freshman on the varsity team, living with my dad and brother who were the coaches. We would have dinner together and talk about what we were going to work on at practice. Then I would go to practice and come home and talk hockey with my brother for hours. That is when I learned so much about hockey and the different systems that teams can run. The other memories I have are the memories of friends coming to games, playing in the big games against the best teams and then being able to go hang out with all your friends who came to the game.”
Of course, he also recalls a senior season game against state power Loyola Gold and the Patriots were short-handed, missing two of their three leading scorers. Dan seemingly played most of the game and ultimately had two goals, including the game-winner and the game-sealing empty net tally. “I remember jumping on the glass (by) our student section,” Dan said. “That year, we went to the Scholastic Cup Championship for the first time in school history but lost to eventual state champion Glenbrook North.”
Now Dan is just making more memories for Stevenson Hockey – as the third Coach Wood to serve as the school’s varsity hockey head coach.