When the Waterloo Black Hawks begin their 2021-22 campaign in September, someone other than P.K. O'Handley will be coaching the team for the first time in nearly two decades.

O'Handley announced Tuesday that he will start his 20th season with the Black Hawks by turning his full attention toward serving as the team's President of Hockey Operation while transitioning out of an active coaching role. O'Handley leaves the bench as the winningest coach in United States Hockey League history with 778 regular season victories, 638 for Waterloo and 140 for the now-defunct North Iowa Huskies.

Waterloo has had consistent success since O'Handley made the move from Mason City in 2002. He guided the Black Hawks to 15 playoff appearances in 19 years, including the 2003-2004 Clark Cup championship. The USHL title was the first of any kind for the franchise in 25 years.

Forward Joe Pavelski is the player most widely associated with O'Handley's coaching efforts in Waterloo. Before becoming a fixture in the National Hockey League -- as well as representing the United States in the 2010 and 2014 Olympics -- Pavelski skated for the Black Hawks from 2002 to 2004. In the summer of 2003, Pavelski was selected by the San Jose Sharks during the NHL Draft, becoming the first of more than 40 NHL picks to skate for the Black Hawks during O'Handley's tenure.

"During my years on the bench, the Black Hawks have consistently taken the ice with the highest caliber of hockey talent from throughout North America and beyond," O'Handley said. "We will continue to be a destination for players who aspire to make their mark on college and professional hockey, but most importantly, we are committed to finding young men of strong character. I believe that combination of talent and character is bound to bring us on-ice success and athletes who our fans will find it natural to cheer for."

According to team officials, the Black Hawks have already started the process of screening candidates to replace O'Handley on the bench. The organization hopes to announce a new coach by early August.

“I have said many times that the purpose of the USHL is development, and that applies to coaches, referees, team executives and professional staff, and obviously the players. Today's announcement represents an opportunity for me to take my own step forward,” O’Handley said. “I would like to take a moment to recognize my wife, Maria, because many of the things that come with coaching elite level teams can’t often be put aside when you walk out the rink doors. Her love and support have been my foundation for the 19 years we have been here and long before that."

O'Handley continued: “From a coaching standpoint, I was fortunate to learn so much when I joined the North Iowa Huskies in 1991, and then to have the tools to build a winner in Waterloo beginning in 2002. I am looking forward to finding and mentoring a new head coach who will continue to provide the high quality of development and consistent results which have become the respective expectations of Black Hawks players and fans.”

The Black Hawks open their 2021-22 season Sept. 23 against the Green Bay Gamblers during the USHL Fall Classic in suburban Pittsburgh, Pa.

Video Credit: waterlooblackhawks via YouTube

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