MIDDLETON — Steffon Walby, who took over the Middleton boys hockey team on an interim basis midway through last season, has been hired as the Cardinals’ full-time coach.
Walby, a team parent when last season began, replaced brothers Tony and Steve Libert after Tony Libert threw hand sanitizer and a hockey stick while addressing his team in between periods during a loss to Madison Memorial on Jan. 14.
The Liberts resigned their head coaching positions after an investigation of the incident.
The Cardinals, who were 6-6-1 when Walby took over, finished the season 10-11-2 but won three of their last five games, according to Wisconsin Prep Hockey.
“Any time you get a head start on anything, it makes it easier,” Walby said. “But this was a different situation. I know for a fact that it was more of getting the guys to focus on hockey again. Give them a little guidance. Get them excited to come to the rink. Getting them excited to go out and perform.
“Every week that I was there it grew better and better to the point where I think we played our best hockey at the end of the year, which made a lot of parents excited because their kids were coming home energetic and really excited to have been at the rink.”
Walby, whose son, Braxton, plays hockey for Middleton and will be a junior next season, played minor league hockey for 11 years and coached professionally for seven.
He moved to Madison in 2011, where he has coached youth hockey and spent time as a scout for the NHL’s Calgary Flames and Tampa Bay Lightning.
Walby had already coached many of the Cardinals’ players at the youth level, and he said last season has him excited about the future of Middleton hockey, which advanced to the Division 1 state championship game in 2011.
“It got my energy flowing,” Walby said. “It got my competitive juices back. It really made me want to jump in there and try to take Middleton from where it’s been to the next level and beyond.”