Coach Rob Thomas will join the University of Arkansas Razorback Hockey program as the Division III head coach effective immediately. “I see an opportunity to grow hockey here in Northwest Arkansas and wanted to be part of that,” Thomas said about becoming the Division III head coach. “I believe that the program Arkansas has put together is a very good one, and they’re doing everything right to make hockey exciting to watch in this area.”
Thomas is a USA Hockey level V certified coach and has more than 30 years of coaching experience. His playing career began at age 3. He competitively competed through midget AAA before he was invited to the Washington Capitals training camp. He played professionally for the American Hockey League Philadelphia Firebirds until a shoulder injury forced him to retire.
Thomas joined the Army after his injury healed, and he played for six years with the REV Heilbronn Club in West Germany. He began his coaching career in 1984 when he became a coach for West Germany’s junior league. There, he found the love of coaching and used a combined North American and European style of play that led his team to a winning record.
Thomas served as the head coach for the Bristol Blazers, a junior B team near Philadelphia, when he returned to the States in 1987. He recorded more than 50 wins and only seven losses in his two-year coaching stint there before becoming the head coach at Temple University.
In his two years at Temple University, Thomas led the team to two undefeated seasons, 18-0-2 and 20-0, and two Delaware Valley Collegiate Hockey League champion titles. He was elected to coach the 1990-91 All Star Team. Seven of his players were selected to play on the team, and his goalie was chosen as the season’s MVP.
Thomas, who was stationed in Tampa Bay, Fla. during Operation Desert Storm, then went on to led the Tampa Bay Junior Lightning to a winning record in 1992. He also coached the Tampa Bay Blades, a women’s team, for five years and led them to two championships in the world’s largest women’s hockey tournament in Brampton, Ontario.
In the 1993-94 season, Thomas played a key role in developing a youth program that included mites to midgets. He was involved with that program for four years. Since then, Thomas organized and instructed various hockey camps around the country including in West Point, Philadelphia and Washington D.C. He currently serves as a consultant to the AHL Charlotte Checkers.
“I’m going to really enjoy being the Division III coach because I believe the main focal point at this level is going to be developing the players for the Division I team to get them prepared for Coach Gallini,” Thomas added. “I’m really looking forward to the challenge.”
He lives with his wife, Valerie, and son, Cole, in Rogers.