It had been seven years since Richard Holdeman had coached an ice hockey game for Indiana University, so he didn’t expect anybody was spending much time thinking about his tenure there.
He was wrong.
The American Collegiate Hockey Association, the governing body for all non-varsity college hockey programs, elected Holdeman to its Hall of Fame.
He has inducted May 4 in Naples, Fla.
The Holdeman file
WHO: Richard Holdeman
WHAT: Inducted into American Collegiate Hockey Association Hall of Fame
INDUCTED: May 4 in Naples, Fla.
COACHED: Indiana University from 1992-2003, 2004-2006
NATIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP GAMES: 1995, 1998, 2000 (placed second each time)
“Yeah, that was amazing really,” said Holdeman, a 1984 Columbus East High School graduate who now teaches cell biology and molecular genetics at Indiana University. “I had been out of it seven years when I saw the email. I was thinking, ‘What do these guys want from me now?’
“But it was very humbling and completely unexpected. It is a tribute to the whole program, the players and coaches who were involved over the time we were here.”
Holdeman, 47, wanted to make sure his assistant coach, Scott Nolting, shared the credit. The two graduated at East together and both played for the Columbus Icemen. Nolting was Holdeman’s assistant his entire 13-year run at Indiana University. When Holdeman stepped down, Nolting walked away as well.
“We were a package deal,” Holdeman said.
Among Holdeman’s players with the Hoosiers was Rich Gordon, who now coaches the Icemen.
“It was a great experience playing for him,” Gordon said of his time with Holdeman. “He probably was the best coach I ever played for. He had the ability to extract every ounce of ability from every one of his players. I know he got more out of me than I thought was possible. And the way he did it was the very definition of positive.”
Although Indiana University played club hockey, Holdeman noted that it was a very high level of play because few colleges and universities had varsity ice hockey teams.
During his coaching career at Indiana, which ended in 2006, he said the American Collegiate Hockey Association exploded in growth to its current size of almost 400 teams.
Indiana joined the ICHA in the 1994-95 season and made it to the national championship game that year, its first of 12 consecutive trips to the national tournament. Under Holdeman, the Hoosiers earned four trips to the national semifinals and three times played for the national championship (1995, 1998, 2000).
“The only thing that still gnaws at me was making the finals three times and not winning one,” he said. “The hardest one to swallow was in 2000 when we lost 3-2 to Miami of Ohio. We dominated, but couldn’t punch in enough goals.”
Although Indiana is considered more of a basketball and football state, Holdeman said it was easy to embrace the sport in Columbus.
“No question about it, there are pockets were hockey is popular and Columbus had a pretty decent hockey program and hockey community. No only did we have a good rink, but we had a lot of transplanted northerners here who loved hockey. We had good coaching. Indiana probably isn’t the best place if you want to play hockey, but a lot of progress has been made.”
“Columbus has a rich, rich hockey history,” said Holdeman’s father, Richard Holdeman (different middle names). “Hockey at its zenith in Columbus wasn’t really competing against basketball. Now, though, the competition is just enormous.”
The elder Holdeman explained that the development of youth sports programs made it harder to attract hockey players. Even so, Columbus built a beautiful indoor skating rink, which keeps hockey interest high.
“When I started as a Mite at age 6, the rink was outdoors,” the younger Holdeman said. “They put pylons on the ice to keep us out of standing water. The weather could be uncooperative. I was about 9 when they re-did the rink and put it under a roof.”
Even as a young skater, Holdeman said he had the inclination to help young skaters. He attended Culver Military Academy for a year after high school and that helped set him up to play college hockey at Yale. After graduating from Yale, he returned to Culver Military Academy to coach under Al Clark.
“He knew what he was doing,” Holdeman said of Clark. “I thought I knew a lot, but there was a big difference between coaching and playing. He gave me a lot of responsibility. He would say, ‘You coach the forwards and the penalty killing. We split it up. He was a great mentor.”
But Holdeman wanted to work with older students so he left Culver and went back to school at Indiana, where he earned degrees in cell and molecular biology. Although he didn’t seek out a coaching position with IU, it wasn’t long before he became head coach. “Sure enough, within a month, they found me,” he said. “They were without a coach. That started a 13-year relationship.”
While he misses the sport, he has plenty to keep him busy. Together with his wife, Amy, of 23 years, they have four daughters. He also is the senior pastor at the Bloomington Reformed Presbyterian Church.
“Coaching hockey is incredibly time consuming and thought consuming,” he said. “I have plenty of my plate.”