LA CROSSE, Wis. -

AJ Degenhardt grew up in La Crosse, but But Badgers fans grew to love him. The Logan High School grad played on the '06 Badgers national championship team. Now, he's back home, as an assistant coach with the Coulee Region chill.

"I played high school hockey here on the Co-Op team and got my start here," Degenhardt said. "The area's been good to me and I'd like to give back in the same sense and give them a good solid product that people can come and enjoy here."

Degenhardt is well prepared to do so, no thanks to his first job out of college.

"I actually did insurance sales for half a year and found out there are some sales involved and recruiting and found out insurance wasn't for me and my passion's always been hockey."

Degenhardt made a few coaching stops, always aiming to return to La Crosse.

"As soon as the team came here, I knew if there would be an opportunity, it would be exciting to do," he said. "I always wanted to keep an eye on it."

New Chill Head Coach John Hamre hired AJ Degenhardt only a few weeks before tryouts started this summer. But they shared a common bond on the ice long before that, through Badgers Head Coach Mike Eaves.

"About 10-12 years ago, I worked for and with him in the National Team Program, and several years ago, Mike was AJ's formative college mentor, if you will. So we have a common thread in our histories," said Hamre.

"He's a great coach, there's obviously things you want to take from everybody along the way," Degenhardt said. "You take bits and pieces from them but at the same time, you want to make your own identity too."

As for his ultimate goal?

"I know I want to coach at a high level and I take my opportunity day by day. So right now I'm here to learn and help out the kids at this level and you never know where it's going to go. Everyday something can be different in the coaching world."