Assistant coach Jagr Stapish watches Friday as Coronado takes on Air Academy. The Cougars won 2-1 in overtime at Sertich Ice Arena.

A guy named after Jaromir Jagr - he said his brother is named for Finnish great Jari Kurri - was meant for the game of hockey. Continuing in the sport he loves while juggling a polar-opposite career required determination and some sleep deprivation, but Jagr Stapish is making it work.

Coronado assistant coach Stapish works with the defensemen, the position he played at the school. Coach Mark Tabrum asked him to help a year after he graduated. It served as a way for him to transition into his post-playing career, and adulthood.

“I just love the game and I was having a hard time figuring out what to do,” Stapish said. “It becomes such a crucial part of your life.

“Coaching was something I was always interested in, but I wasn’t sure I’d be able to do it right out of the gate. I enjoy it just as much, in a different way.”

His day job is an officer at the Department of Corrections in Canon City. The people around him between the two gigs couldn’t be more different.

“I keep them pretty separated, let one be my relief from the other,” Stapish said. “One thing I try to take from work is patience. Communication is key in both places as well.”

At one point he was working overnights and would have to change clothes at practice. Today’s schedule is more manageable. He works 6 a.m. to 2 p.m., drives back to the Springs, comes up with a practice plan and hops on the ice.

“I wouldn’t rather be doing anything else than giving back to the hockey community,” Stapish said. “I do it for the players, but at the end of the day, I do it for myself as well.

“I’d still be trying to figure out what to do without hockey.”

Tabrum said Stapish nearly succeeded in his first attempt to become a Colorado state patrolman, and he’s still on that path. It might interfere with his future at Coronado. But he’ll figure it out, as he’s done for five years.

“He’s like anybody else. Enthusiastic, energetic, wants to give back,” Tabrum said. “He’s learning each and every day. He’s picking up new things.”

Before falling to Mullen 3-0 on Saturday, Coronado opened the season with a 2-1 overtime victory against Air Academy. It was the type of game Coronado will prefer this year.

At the moment Tabrum and Stapish are working with an experienced roster, but a short bench. There were just 15 players as of Wednesday, not one of them a freshman.

They’ll have to rely on excellent conditioning, as some players will be out there “pretty much every other shift.” In close games, with veteran goaltending from Marc Godec, Tabrum thinks they’ll be all right.

“We’re playing with what we have,” he said.

“I’d like to think we can put a few pucks in the net and keep it out of our net.”

Stapish thinks the Cougars are the sneaky underdogs. With so few of them, they’ll have to wear almost as many hats as their assistant coach.

“We have the potential, with the core we have, to do a lot more damage than people are anticipating,” Stapish said. “We’ll have one of the harder-working D corps in the Springs.”

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