Sarah (Mikla) Hynes is trying to keep life as normal as possible for her husband and her three daughters.
That’s not easy when your husband is the new head coach of the New Jersey Devils of the National Hockey League.
John Hynes was hired as the 17th head coach in Devils history in June. Since then, it’s been a hectic time for the Hynes family. That is going to continue, with the family making the move to Newark, N.J., later this month. They’ve been living in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., for the past six years, where John was coaching the top farm team of the Pittsburgh Penguins.
While John is now recognized nationally, volleyball fans in the area should clearly remember Sarah. She was an all-state player at St. Croix Central. She blended her tall, slender frame with an incredible leaping ability to soar high above the net, hitting the volleyball with as much power and velocity as any outside hitter in the area in the past 25 years.
Between her play at Central and in club volleyball in St. Paul, Mikla earned a volleyball scholarship to the University of Pittsburgh, which was a top NCAA Division 1 program at the time. Mikla graduated from St. Croix Central in 1991. She was a four-year letterwinner at Pitt and the Panthers advanced to the NCAA tournament in each of her first three years. She was named team captain as a senior and was also named a Senior Student-Athlete of Distinction. She earned second-team All-Big East honors in 1994 and was a two-time Academic All-Big East selection.
Mikla graduated from Pittsburgh in 1996 with a bachelor’s degree in movement science. She received her master’s degree in teaching health and physical education from Pitt in 1997 while also serving as a graduate assistant volunteer volleyball coach.
After college, she came back to Wisconsin, teaching and coaching at Oak Creek for three years. She then returned to the college ranks, coaching at the University of Dayton for two years.
She couldn’t stay away from Wisconsin. She next took a job as the Director of Volleyball Operations at the UW-Madison. That’s where she met John, who was an assistant hockey coach for the Badgers under head coach Mike Eaves.
Sarah, who remains as grounded as when she graduated from Central, said the couple met in the university weight room. She worked out early in the morning, at the same time Hynes was putting the hockey players through their paces. At first he tried to shoo her out of the weight room, but soon, they made a connection.
They married and moved to Michigan. John was the head coach at the United States National Hockey Program in Ann Arbor, while Sarah coached high school volleyball for six years.
John was hired by the Penguins in 2009 to coach the Wilkes-Barre team. By then, their daughters were arriving, so Sarah has been a stay-at-home mom the past six years. Their daughters range from 10 to 4 years old.
Sarah said that she had to start learning about hockey when she met John.
“Hockey wasn’t real big back in Hammond when I was there,” she said.
Hockey fans can be rabid. Sarah said the fans were generally positive in Wilkes-Barre, but she knows they could be more vocal in New Jersey.
“This will be a whole new adventure,” she said of attending Devils games. “You have to understand that people have their opinions and they’re entitled to them. I was a coach before I met him, so I understand the profession.”
The demands on a hockey coach are major and Sarah said she tries to not talk hockey when John is home. With three school-age children, Sarah said she doesn’t travel with the team and she misses some home games, to make sure the girls’ school routine isn’t upset.
She said none of the girls has shown an interest in hockey. But they have shown an interest in volleyball. Sarah said that once they get settled in New Jersey, she will see if there are volleyball options available for her and the girls.
Former Devils standout Bill Guerin gave John a strong recommendation when he was hired, telling this to the newjersey.com: “I can’t say enough good things about this guy,” Guerin said of Hynes. “He’s honest, he’s such a great friend and his family is incredible. Sarah and the girls. He’s got three little girls and he’s a great dad. Unbelievable work ethic and his hockey mind is a perfect fit for New Jersey. I’m thrilled for him.”
Sarah said the couple also understands the transient nature of professional coaching. They rented when they lived in Wilkes-Barre and she said they plan to rent when they move to New Jersey.
Sarah said she and her family tries to get back to visit Hammond at least twice a year. She said her family in Wisconsin isn’t the happiest, however, that John’s jobs keep taking them farther away from her roots. John is originally from Rhode Island and he played college hockey at Boston University, so this move brings him much closer to home. He was a member of Boston’s 1995 NCAA championship team.