Lennie Childs at Union 1

William Douglas has been writing The Color of Hockey blog since 2012. Douglas joined NHL.com in 2019 and writes about people of color in the sport. Today, he profiles Lennie Childs, who was named coach of Omaha of the United States Hockey League in April, becoming the league's first Black coach.

Lennie Childs said becoming coach of Omaha of the United States Hockey League boiled down to advice that his mentor, Paul Jerrard, gave him several seasons ago.

“'If you have an opportunity to be a head coach and blaze your own path, do it,’” Childs said. “Those words rang in my ears nonstop. Honestly, I would say that was the biggest determining factor other than talking to my wife and saying, ‘Hey, is this something that you want to do?’”

It seems fitting Childs, an assistant on Union College’s NCAA Division I men’s team for the past two seasons, takes the helm of a team in the same city where Jerrard coached.

Lennie Union College 6

Jerrard was an assist on the University of Nebraska-Omaha NCAA Division I men’s team from 2018-23. The former assistant for the Colorado Avalanche (2002-03), Dallas Stars (2011-13) and Calgary Flames (2016-18), who played five games for the Minnesota North Stars in 1988-89, died of cancer on Feb. 15, 2023, at the age of 57.

But Jerrard’s words live on in Childs, named the USHL’s first Black coach on April 23. The 32-year-old Silver Spring, Maryland, native credits Jerrard freely sharing his hockey knowledge and thoughts on life to helping him navigate his way up the coaching ladder.

He absorbed Jerrard’s lessons on special teams play and applied it at Union, which had the top penalty kill percentage (87.3 percent) in the Eastern College Athletic Conference and was No. 2 in the nation last season behind Boston College (89 percent).

Paul Jerrard bench 1

“It wasn’t just the lessons," Childs said, "but the way he went about helping me like a father figure, like, ‘Hey, I’m not telling you what to do. I’m going to show you how it should be done, if you want’ type deal. 

"To have the No. 2 penalty kill in the nation, to run that with some unbelievable players at Union, there’s no doubt in my mind that Paul Jerrard had a lot of influence in the making of that.” 

With Omaha, Childs succeeds David Wilkie, who remains with the franchise as general manager and CEO.

Nicknamed “The Lenergizer” for his boundless energy, Childs takes the helm of a team that has won seven USHL Clark Cup playoffs championships and four Anderson Cup titles as regular season champions since its first season in 1979-80, but finished eighth in the USHL Western Conference and last in the league with a 16-43-3 record this season.

Lennie Childs at Union 2

“This is a blueblood program of the USHL that has a rich history attached to it,” Childs said. “I want to thank our ownership, Mike Picozzi, and well as general manager David Wilkie for putting their trust in me to develop the next wave of Omaha Lancers.

“We’re going to play really hard, really fast, really relentless with a dog-in-bone mentality every night. We can do that, we’ll put ourselves in a good spot.”

Omaha ownership and USHL president and commissioner Glenn Hefferan said Childs’ coaching track record speaks for itself.

Prior to Union College, Childs was an assistant with Des Moines of the USHL, where he mainly led player development, penalty-kill units and offensive zone production.

He was coach of the Skipjacks Hockey Club (York, Pennsylvania) of the United States Premier Hockey League in 2017-18 and guided them to a 27-10-7 record. Childs was a forward at Concordia University, a private NCAA Division III institution in Mequon, Wisconsin, where he had 13 points (five goals, eight assists) in 88 games from 2012-16.

“His outstanding pedigree and record of success in all areas of the sport are sure to drive our program forward,” Picozzi said. “We are excited to see how his expertise and leadership will positively impact our team.”

Childs has NHL experience from being a guest coach at the Seattle Kraken’s development camp in July as part of the NHL Coaches’ Association’s BIPOC (Black, Indigenous and People of Color) Program.

Lennie Kraken 1

The program supports coaches of color in several areas, including skills development, leadership strategies, communication tactics and networking.

“That’s definitely a big factor for me as a coach in my growth,” he said of attending the Kraken camp. “Just seeing it done at the highest level gave me sort of a benchmark to reach every day. I don’t think anyone really gets to go to the best place in their profession, learn it, and get to apply it right away. That’s something I was fortunate enough to have.”