There were ample reasons why graduate forward Nolan Moyle could have left the Michigan hockey team after last season.
As the Wolverines underwent a tumultuous offseason, it would have been easy for Moyle to leave. He could have transferred, avoided much of the ongoing controversy around the program, and spent his final year of eligibility under a coach with more experience than Michigan first-time coach Brandon Naurato.
Or after four years of college hockey, Moyle could have just decided that he had enough, that it was time to go pro. He could have signed an AHL contract and worked to earn himself a roster spot.
Moyle considered all these options and more. But even with no shortage of incentives to leave, he decided to stay.
“I had a couple of AHL offers, and I even went to the transfer portal for a bit because I wasn’t really sure what was gonna go on,” Moyle said Tuesday. “But I saw that the opportunity to come back was here, and this place is special. … I wanted to be a big part of this group. I want to lead this group. “
Donning the captain’s ‘C’ on his jersey, Moyle will have the opportunity to do just that.
With a large crop of newcomers — 12 freshmen in total — the first challenge for this year’s iteration of the Wolverines is getting a new-look group to mesh together. Before that can happen on the ice though, it needs to happen off of it.
So far, Moyle seems to have done an excellent job to ensure that happens. Around the rink, Moyle is constantly helping the freshmen get acclimated, bringing everyone closer as a result.
Through the preseason, freshman forward Rutger McGroarty and Moyle have been practically attached at the hip. But McGroarty is just one of many who are feeding off of Moyle’s leadership around the rink. His teammates and coaches have nothing but positive things to say about his impact on the young team.
“(Moyle) has done such an unbelievable job of making these freshmen feel comfortable,” Naurato said. “… My junior year, we had 11 freshmen, and we just wanted to make them feel comfortable right away. It allows them to grow as individuals, so it’s been great.”
Added freshman forward Adam Fantilli: “He’s a guy who I can call day or night, and he’ll talk me through whatever I’m going through. … I can go to him with anything and I feel like he’s family to me and all the other freshmen.”
Of course, Moyle’s role this season will include more than just his leadership off the ice. Though he wasn’t a premier point-scorer last year, notching 17, he played in all but six games. He will be expected to continue providing consistent minutes, as well as on-ice experience that many of Michigan’s key contributors will lack.
But for a program which just last season faced allegations of a toxic coach and a toxic culture and a team that is now preaching the mantra of “Good Dudes Only,” Moyle’s biggest role will be instilling that culture. As the Wolverines try to move forward, Moyle is primed to become a role model, the “good dude” whose footsteps a very young team will follow in.
“Me and the guys in the room know the expectations,” Moyle said. “When you go to Michigan, you play for something bigger than yourself. You learn from the people before you. You try to set the example for the people after you.”
For the past four years, Moyle has learned from the people before him. Now, as the primary leader in a locker room trying to shift its culture, he must be the one to set the example.
Luckily for the Wolverines, Moyle is back, and he’s ready to lead.