The Chicago Hawks Hockey Club will have a few new faces on the bench for the 2023-2024 season. Lead by Director, Steve Poapst, we are looking forward to welcoming these highly qualified individuals to our team and welcoming back many of our valued coaches from last year.
Please note: the coaching lineup is subject to change.
Steve Poapst is a former professional hockey player who is currently the Hockey Director of the Chicago Hawks Hockey Club.
Steve was born and raised in Cornwall, Ontario and played his youth hockey there. At the age of 16, he left to play junior hockey for the Smiths Falls Bears of the CJHL. Following juniors, he attended Colgate University and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Geology. Steve went on to play over 1,000 professional games as a defenseman in the ECHL, AHL, and NHL, playing much of his career with the Chicago Blackhawks before retiring and entering into coaching.
The Hawks are excited to welcome Jonathan Cannizzo to our coaching staff. Coach Cannizzo is a level 4 USA Hockey Coach who previously served as the Head Coach of the Northwest Chargers Bantam Major team (2014-2016) and more recently the Head Coach of the Geneva Cyclones U16 Central States team (2016-2020). In his tenure at the Cyclones, Jonathan led the U16 team to the State Championship game twice.
Jonathan grew up in the Chicagoland area playing youth hockey before playing Junior Hockey in Cincinnati and eventually college hockey at the University of Central Oklahoma, one of the top ACHA Division 1 programs in the country. At UCO, Jonathan was an Academic All-American (2) and a First Team All-American his senior year. Jonathan will coach the Hawks at the U16 CSDHL level.
Andy Brown grew up in Downers Grove and played for the Huskies through Bantam AA and played Midget hockey for Team Illinois and the Flames. Andy was a member of 4 State Championship teams at U14 A, U16 AAA, and twice at U18 AA. Both U18 teams won the Central District Region to advance to Nationals, finishing as Runner up in 2000 and the final 8 in 2001. During Coach Brown's Midget years he was identified as a future prospect in the OHL and NAHL, with an opportunity to play for the Springfield Jr Blues in 2001-02 season. Coach Brown traded in his skates for text books and attended the University of Western Michigan and also obtained a graduate degree from Elmhurst College. He has held various coaching positions with the Northern Express and Orland Park Vikings hockey clubs. Coach Brown has primarily coached U14, U16, and U18 over the past 14 seasons, but has provided skills instruction and development from learn to skate through Jr/College players as well.
Coach Brown currently works in government finance - an accountant by day and a coach at night. Andy has two daughters who play at the Hawks, Abby (10U) and Tessa (8U). "I love hockey, I always have and I always will. It has provided me so many opportunities in my life, and that is why I coach. I want to pay forward the life lessons, support, and growth to the next generations of hockey players that I was afforded as a kid.
Mikhail Yakubov was born in Barnaul Russia. He was drafted 10th overall by the Chicago Blackhawks in 2000. He played for the Norfolk Admirals AHL from 2002-2004. He played in the NHL for the Chicago Blackhawks during the 2003-04 and 2005-06 seasons. Additionally, he played on several Russian teams in the KHL from 2006 to 2016 before retiring in 2016.
Coach Yakubov began coaching in 2017 for the Chicago Bulldogs and Chicago Hawks. He currently coaches for the Chicago Hawks and lives in Schaumburg with his wife Maria and daughters, Alice and Avrora. Everyone around the rink knows him as Coach Yak and his favorite phrase is “Finish him!”
Luke started playing youth hockey at Darien for the Huskies. He grew up in their organization and eventually played ACHA hockey for St. Ambrose University. He spent two years as the club president and two years as an assistant captain. He graduated from St. Ambrose in December of 2015 and started working for the Chicago Hawks in February of 2016. Since then he has become involved in many areas at the club and learned a great deal about the organization. Luke also coached the DuPage Stars junior varsity team from 2016-2018 while continuing to coach travel teams for the Hawks. He is very excited to see what this year brings and to coach another season with the Hawks.
Ted Gaffney was born and raised in Eagle River, WI. Ted played his youth hockey for the Eagle River Recreation Association and Northland Pines High School, winning state championships in Squirt and PeeWee. Ted played high school hockey at Northland Pines High School, winning the Wisconsin State Championship his Junior year. Ted’s accolades include Captain, All Conference, and honorable mention all-state senior year, Ted was invited to play for Team Wisconsin at the High School national championship tournament. Additionally Ted was a 4 year letter winner at Division 3 St. Norbert College and captain his senior year.
Ted began coaching at Appleton United High School in 1998 and coached at the Huskies from 2004 thru 2008. He also served as a board member with the Huskies for a year. In 2009 Ted coached Pee Wee Major at the Chicago Fury and began coaching with the Chicago Hawks at mite NWHL the same season. Since then Ted has been involved with the Hawks at every level, from Learn To Skate thru Midget. Coach Gaffney currently serves as Assistant Hockey Director and is involved with several teams at the club.
Coach Deceatis grew up playing hockey in the Chicagoland area. Todd has played hockey at all levels from A to AA to AAA. He began playing with the St Jude Knights and later played for the Chicago Young Americans. After AAA hockey, Todd attended Marist High School where he played on the varsity team all 4 years. While at Marist, he also played for the Hawks. Coach Deceatis continued his hockey career at St Norbert College for 4 years.
A native of Westmont, Illinois, Will played his youth hockey in the Chicagoland area prior to playing three seasons of junior hockey in Chicago, Detroit, and Albuquerque. Will then went on to play four years of Division I ACHA hockey while attending Western Michigan University. After graduating Will returned home and began coaching while attending law school. He has held various coaching positions from squirts to midgets with the Huskies and Chicago Fury AAA hockey clubs. In 2018 Coach Lite joined the Hawks U18/U16 coaching staff. Will also coaches his son's team at the 2011 birth year.
In addition to coaching with the Huskies, Fury, and Hawks Will has been an instructor and coach with the Chicago Blackhawks Youth Hockey Camps and Huron Hockey Schools. In 2009 he served as an assistant coach with the Illinois Brick Hockey Club Jr. Blackhawks. From 2011 to 2013 Will was a scout with the Kalamazoo Jr. K Wings of the NAHL. Will is currently a board member with the Central States Developmental Hockey League and an Assistant State's Attorney in Will County.
John Fiflis grew up in Westmont, Illinois, playing hockey with the Huskies. After Bantams, John went on to play high school for Hinsdale Central where he was an alternate captain his senior year. After finishing high school, John went on to play ACHA hockey at Iowa State University while earning a degree in civil engineering. He was also an alternate captain his senior year for the Cyclones. John currently resides in Lisle and works in construction management.
Tony grew up playing for the Huskies after they moved to the Darien Sportsplex. In high school, he played with the Northern Express, playing in the State championship game his last year. Coach Daniels also simultaneously played for his high school team, Downers Grove South, where he was selected to play for Team Illinois in the Chicago Showcase tournament. Tony went on to play college hockey for Iowa State University, where he met his beautiful wife, Megan a cheerleader for the hockey team. In 2003 Tony was invited to try out and selected to play for Team USA in the World University Games.
Tony has been coaching hockey for 16 years and is entering his 7th season with the Chicago Hawks. Prior to the Hawks, and before even graduating college, Tony coached the Iowa State University ACHA division 3 team. Following his time at Iowa State, he coached for the Northern Express and later the Ice Dogs, where he became the Assistant Director of Hockey. Tony decided to coach closer to home and took a full-time position as the Hockey Director for the Chicago Hawks from 2007 to 2008. During his 9 years with the Hawks Tony has coached at multiple levels including 18U, 16U, 15U, Mite and Silver Mite, but has experience coaching at all levels.
Tony lives in Downers Grove with his wife Megan and their two active, adorable boys, Brennan (2012) and Kellen (2013). The boys are both just as passionate about hockey as their father and will be playing for the Hawks this season.
Rudy grew up in the suburbs of Chicago playing AA hockey for the Northwest Chargers. At age 12, he played AAA for Team Illinois and during high school for Chicago Young Americans. Rudy was invited to play at the Chicago Showcase where he was offered a tender to play in Michigan. Rudy went on to play Junior A for Soo Indians in the NAHL and later played in Iowa for Cedar Rapids Roughriders in the USHL for the team’s 1999-2000 inaugural season.
After a repeated injury, Rudy stepped away from the game and went on to college attending DePaul University earning a Bachelor's degree in business management. At DePaul Rudy met his wife Nora. Married now 14 years strong, they have two amazing twin boys (2013's) who have been playing for the Hawks and Phantoms programs since Learn to Skate.
For love of the game, Rudy has always had a passion to coach. Now a Level 2 USA Hockey coach, Rudy has been developing the 2013 birth year group since first-year Phantoms.
Steve Climo has been with the Chicago Hawks since 2012. Steve was born and raised in Braintree, MA where he played his high school hockey for Thayer Academy and is a member of the Sports Hall of Fame. He went on to play 4 years of NCAA Division 1 hockey at Brown University and served as Captain his senior year. After college, Coach Climo played 4 years of professional hockey; AHL, ECHL and in France.
Kevin Sleezer grew up in the Chicago suburbs and has played for various A/AA travel hockey clubs in the area since he could walk. Coach Sleezer has played for both the Huskies and Sabres hockey clubs. Besides travel hockey, Kevin also played for his high school team at Benet Academy.
Kevin’s coaching career began after college as an assistant coach at Benet in 2011 on the JV team. Coach Sleezer joined the Hawks in 2012 coaching at the pee wee and bantam levels.
Ryan began playing hockey at the age of 5 In Lakeville, Minnesota - a suburb of the Twin Cities. Ryan continued his hockey career there through high school where he captained the Varsity team. Post high school Ryan elected to hang up the skates and play DII football at Truman State University in Missouri. Ryan’s love of hockey brought him back to the ice through various men’s leagues in Chicago.
Having witnessed the birth of all-girls hockey in Minnesota during his youth and the subsequent explosive growth that followed, Ryan has been driven to help recreate similar opportunities for girls here in Chicago. As a result, Ryan co-founded the Hawks girls program in 2015. He has 3 hockey playing daughters (‘13, ‘08, ‘06) and son who also plays (‘11) - all at the Hawks!
Scott Matthews is proud to be starting his fifth year coaching with the Chicago Hawks. Scott played his entire youth hockey career locally in the 70’s and 80’s, in the Chicagoland area. He played for the Chicago Minor Hawks, Chicago Young Americans, Team Illinois and Naperville Central High School. At age 17, Scott was drafted to the Ontario Hockey League and the United States Hockey League. Scott chose to play for the OHL with the Cornwall Royales. He spent the next few years playing with the OHL and the Central Ontario Hockey League with the Brockville Browns, the Smiths Falls Bears, and the Branford Classics.
Upon returning home in the 90’s, Scott began his coaching career and is a Level 4 USA Hockey Coach. He has coached for the Naperville Sabres at the Mites-Midgets level, the Waubonsie Valley High School Varsity Team, and has coached with the Chicago Hawks in a variety of areas, including coaching the Bantam and Squirt Central States team. Scott still enjoys the game of hockey by playing once a week with old teammates and teaching his son and daughter to play the game he loves so much.
Erika Truschke grew up in Lemont and played her youth hockey career at all four AAA travel organizations including Mission, Team Illinois, Fury and CYA. She attended SUNY Oswego in New York and was a four-year player on the NCAA DIII Women’s Ice Hockey team as a center and completed her B.S. in Marketing with an Athletic Coaching minor.
Most recently, she coached at Team Illinois as an assistant coach to the U16 and U19 girls’ teams from 2019-2021. Erika holds a full-time marketing job at a local construction firm but is extremely passionate about giving back to the game and coaching the younger generation of women’s hockey. She is excited to help all of the Hawks girls’ teams grow and develop into young hockey players and women.
My name is Madison Gasper, and I was born and raised in Brampton, Ontario, and played my youth hockey with Brampton, Mississauga, and Aurora. I am still currently playing hockey and studying in Elementary Education with a minor in coaching at Aurora University in Illinois. I can’t wait to join a great coaching staff and hockey program to continue to grow the girls hockey game. I also look forward to being able to mentor and inspire the young girls of the club.
Coach Rich grew up in Palos Heights and played for the Chicago Hawks throughout his youth. He played at Marist High School, and continued to play for the Hawks through high school. He connected with many Hawks coaches over the years playing men's league and eventually brought his kids into the program. He has three kids who play hockey, including a 12U girl, 10U boy, and 8U girl - and they're all Hawks (and a Phantom)!
Prior to his coaching career, Bob played his youth hockey in Chicago. Following high school, Bob served in the U.S Marines for four years in North Carolina, Japan, and Korea.
Bob considers himself a student of the goalie position and is constantly learning and applying new techniques with his goaltenders. He has had the opportunity to work with some of the top goaltenders from US and Europe, and learn from, Jim Bedard, Goaltending Coach of the Detroit Redwings. He attends an annual coaching symposium lead by; Mike Valley, Dallas Stars Director of Goaltending, Thomas Magnusson, Director of Goaltending Development for the Swedish Ice Hockey Association, and Hannu Nyquist, Goaltending Coach for the Finnish National Team. Goaltending is constantly evolving and Bob never stops learning new concepts and techniques from his mentors and goalies alike.