From Houghton to PyeongChang: Michigan Tech Alumni at the 2018 Winter Olympic Games

Three men stand smiling against a backdrop that reads PyeongChang and Olympics.
Three men stand smiling against a backdrop that reads PyeongChang and Olympics.
From left, Nick Laurila, Scott Aldrich and Dave Fischer at the 2018 Winter Olympic Games in PyeongChang, South Korea. (Dave Fischer photo)

Michigan Tech Alumni Reconvene at the 2018 Winter Olympic Games.

Travel from Michigan Tech’s campus to the Olympic Village in PyeongChang, South Korea would take roughly one day and 16 hours, if direct flights were available. Despite the distance, Michigan Technological University, and in particular, Michigan Tech Hockey, has a presence at the 2018 Winter Olympic Games.

Scott Aldrich, Dave Fischer and Nick Laurila, whose combined time at Tech spans more than two decades, are at the 2018 Winter Olympic Games with the U.S. Men’s and Women’s Hockey teams. “Everywhere (I) go there's some kind of connection to Michigan Tech… across the world with our teams, either on our staff, or the players that play or have played on our team, from just random fans in the stands that I'll connect with and see Michigan Tech jerseys on people,” says Fischer, former Michigan Tech Sports information director (1987-2004), assistant athletic director (1997-2004) and 2009 Michigan Tech Sports Hall of Fame inductee, now senior director of communications for USA Hockey.

The 2018 Winter Olympic Games are Fischer’s third. Since February 2, he’s overseen media public relations television operations for the men’s and women’s USA Hockey teams. One of a three-person crew, Fischer engages with media broadcasters from around the world and facilitates interviews with hockey players for shows like "Good Morning America" and NBC's "Today," among others. The 14-hour time difference makes for long days, but because “there’s nothing like it,” says Fischer, they sleep when they can.

Laurila received his bachelor’s degree in marketing with a coaching minor from Tech’s School of Business and Economics in 2010. He made the most of his time at Tech by volunteering part-time with the Michigan Tech hockey team in 2008. In 2009, he transitioned into a part-time video coordinator role while finishing his degree and beginning to take graduate classes toward a master’s in Applied Natural Resource Economics. In relentless pursuit of his passion for sports, before Laurila could finish his degree, he took a position as director of hockey operations in Huntsville, Alabama.

Man standing in front of Olympic rings.
Laurila in front of Olympic Rings. Nick Laurila photo. 

Fast-forward to today and Laurila’s debut at the Winter Olympics as video coordinator for the U.S. women’s Olympic hockey team. His job consists of breaking down games and scouting opponents for upcoming games. But it’s not all work. Laurila says he has been “very fortunate to be able to do quite a bit of other stuff,” including attending speed skating, curling, figure skating and men's hockey games. Other perks include the free McDonald’s in the athlete’s village, where Laurila is staying, and the hospitality of South Koreans.

Fischer, on the other hand, said he’s met Chloe Kim, U.S. gold medal winner for women’s snowboard halfpipe, and got to rub elbows with Katie Couric and Al Roker—all of whom are “very nice,” and it’s “just part of the job,” he says. Another familiar face for Fischer and Laurila is Michigan Tech alumnus Scott Aldrich.

Aldrich, originally from Hancock, Michigan, where he had a storied high school hockey career, was Michigan Tech’s head equipment manager from 1996-2001. At the 2018 Winter Games, Aldrich is one of two equipment managers for the U.S. men’s hockey team. Between daily practices and odd game times—to comply with NBC’s desire for prime-time coverage for audiences in the Eastern Time Zone, though PyeongChang is 14 hours ahead—presents scheduling challenges and a busy schedule, at least for another month. After the Olympics, Aldrich will pivot to being equipment manager for the U.S. Paralympic Sled Hockey Team. The Paralympics are March 9-18, also in PyeongChang.

Like Fischer and Laurila, whom he sees daily at practices and games, Aldrich says he feels “very fortunate to be in this position.” After 20-plus years in hockey—from personal to professional involvement—he never expected to remain in the hockey business. He considers it “a great honor, of course, especially now to be at the Olympics. Growing up in Hancock, hockey's in the blood, and it's been a great ride.”

The U.S. Women’s team won gold against Canada last night 3 to 2. The U.S. Men’s team lost to the Czech Republic in the semifinals, 2 to 3 earlier this week.

Michigan Technological University is a public research university founded in 1885 in Houghton, Michigan, and is home to more than 7,000 students from 55 countries around the world. Consistently ranked among the best universities in the country for return on investment, Michigan’s flagship technological university offers more than 120 undergraduate and graduate degree programs in science and technology, engineering, computing, forestry, business and economics, health professions, humanities, mathematics, social sciences, and the arts. The rural campus is situated just miles from Lake Superior in Michigan's Upper Peninsula, offering year-round opportunities for outdoor adventure.