Flames Hockey coach Kirk Handy reflects on career

Eighteen years ago, Ontario-native Kirk Handy was thrust into the position of head coach for Liberty University’s men’s hockey team. The mid-season change was a shock for Handy, but it started his journey to earn more than 400 career wins and become the senior director of Campus Recreation at Liberty University.

After the Flames win against the Alabama Crimson Tide on Feb. 9, it was announced that coach Handy had logged his 401st win, bumping his career win percentage to .700.

“There wasn’t a lot of time to think about the good, the bad, and the ugly. It’s been a great opportunity to grow as a leader and realize that I need to be out in front of a group of people and lead well,” Handy said. “I had to really stretch myself on being someone who was proactive on many different facets.”

Handy has become an integral part of the club sports program, both as senior director and as head hockey coach. His hard work and dedication have helped the club sports program grow and evolve into what it is today, and he has coached the men’s hockey team to greater heights than ever before.

Senior forward Grant Garvin said the hockey program would not be the same without Handy at the helm.

“(Handy is) always striving to be better for us as a team. For me, being here for four years, I can say that each year has gotten better and better,” Garvin said.

Handy came to Liberty as a transfer student in 1996 after spending one year at Nipissing University in Ontario.

While attending Liberty, Handy said he learned the importance of an active spiritual life. During his time as a student, he grew in his faith and recognized the difference between being a Christian and having a relationship with Christ.

“Liberty meant so much to me when I went here as a student. It changed the way that I perceived my faith. Before (Liberty) I was happy to be a Christian, and I think through Liberty, I learned to use my faith to make a difference and how (to) influence people through living out my life,” Handy said. “I used to see hockey as a sport, and now I see it as a sport and a platform.”

He also had the opportunity to work with and interact with leaders like Jerry Falwell Sr., and the experience has stayed with him since.

“Liberty has had as much of an impact on me as anything I’ve ever done. I had an awesome opportunity to work with Dr. Falwell and some of those people back in the day. It was a great opportunity for me to glean from those guys and learn from them and to see leadership at its best,” Handy said.

He attended Liberty until he graduated in 2000 and became assistant coach with the hockey team.

According to Garvin, Handy’s persistent positivity and care make him stand out from any other coach Garvin has played under.

“Handy is more than just a coach. I think that’s why he stands out. He’s not just a coach, he’s more like a mentor. He cares so much more, and we’re not hockey players to him – we’re people,” Garvin said. “He’s the most positive person I’ve ever met. He could be having the worst day and you couldn’t even tell.”

Handy has high hopes for his team both on and off the rink, and he said he tries to challenge his team to succeed not only athletically, but also spiritually and academically.

“He motivates us to be better by his own example, whether that’s in hockey, or even more so in our spiritual lives. He wants us to grow as individuals more than even as hockey players,” Garvin said. “He’s a role model for us in our own lives and in being the type of man that he is.”

The Liberty men’s hockey team aims to win the 2018 ACHA national championship in Columbus, Ohio, on Tuesday, March 13. The team ended its regular season with a record of 28 wins and six losses and has set a school record for 17 consecutive wins. The Flames also won the ESCHL playoff championship Feb. 25.

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