Docherty’s cool head guides Cool Cats


The UK Wildcats take on the Dayton Flyers at Lexington Ice Center on Sunday, Jan. 31, 2010. Photo by Adam Wolffbrandt

Rob Docherty stands on the sideline, arms casually crossed. It is 3 a.m. on a Sunday morning and the scene that unfolds before him is a Division II club hockey game, but he is not a normal coach.

What makes a grown man want to give up his weekends seven months a year and stay up as late, if not later, than most college kids, to coach that oh-so-Canadian sport in this oh-so-equestrian state?

“It’s for the love of the sport,” Docherty said. “Hockey has given me so much over the years — the competition, the friendships. It’s been a great part of my life.”

Make that a great big part of his life. Growing up in Mississauga, Ontario, Canada, Docherty picked up a hockey stick at age 5, primarily because that is what just about all kids in Canada do when they are 5 years old.

Docherty never put the stick down.

He played in Canadian leagues, American leagues, German leagues and Swedish leagues.  He loved every bit of hockey he played on every part of the globe.

“I can still remember playing in Sweden like it was yesterday,” Docherty said.

That vast wealth of experience made its way into his coaching philosophy, giving UK a hint of European flavor. He designs systems around an open-ice concept emphasizing control of the puck, which he said was his favorite style of hockey to play.

Docherty not only played on both sides of the Atlantic Ocean, but also played on both sides of the puck. He has experience at every position on the ice except goalie, which allows him to see the team as a complete unit.

“I know what it’s like to be on both sides of the puck,” Docherty said. “I can explain things to every position in better terms because I’ve played both offense and defense. I know what everyone needs to be doing in relation to what everyone else is doing.”

Docherty took over the team in the second semester of the 2005-06 season after he was chosen by the players to ascend from assistant to head coach. With the new found title came a new found style of coaching.

“He’s become way more vocal since he took over,” said captain Andrew Serres, who was a freshman when Docherty became coach. “As an assistant, he hardly ever spoke. Now he loves to give motivational speeches, tell us stories about his playing days. He compares the team to an orchestra or to a dance team. They sound ridiculous now, but when he says them, you buy into it.”

But just because Docherty has picked up the amount of talking doesn’t mean he has picked up the volume. On the sidelines, he is a portrait of cool, calm and collected.

“I don’t believe in yelling at players,” Docherty said. “When the game is on, all you can do is work on the positives. I don’t need to get in a guy’s face to make them understand me. I can talk to them. It’s easier to influence them that way.”

Not only is Docherty the head coach, he’s the entire coaching staff. He’s a one-man hockey variety show. He relies on team captains to shoulder a heavy leadership role in place of coaches.

Docherty said the college level suits him because he doesn’t have to teach the fundamentals, and “wouldn’t have the patience to, anyway.” Instead, he can focus on finding a system that fits the players from year to year. In four years, he realizes how much he has developed as a coach.

“After being around for four years, you live and you learn,” Docherty said. “But it’s been a pleasure working with all the guys that have come through the program, seeing them grow with the club. It’s worth it every weekend.”

Cool Cats raise money for Haiti

The UK club hockey team raised $834 in their “Hockey for Haiti” fundraiser.

The team sold items such as customized jerseys and Ashley Judd schedule posters from the 1998-99 season, which have become a collector’s item.