This chronicle is a biographical construct from various archived personal newspaper interviews and personal accounts from Wally Muehlbronner’s career as head coach of the La Salle Explorers Ice Hockey Team.

By Ross Porubski
Youth Hockey Info

There isn’t a more well-known coach in southeastern Pennsylvania high school ice hockey than Wally Muehlbronner. The iconic head coach of the La Salle College High School Explorers has been behind the bench since 1997 manning the wheel and steering his teams to multiple league, Flyers Cup Tournament, and the Pennsylvania Cup Championships. Twenty-seven years of mastery defining a career that is unmatched by any of his head coaching counterparts over the course of their entire careers. There is no other high school varsity ice hockey coach with more wins than Muehlbronner.

About the family

Walter Muehlbronner

Wally is the son of Walter Eugene Muehlbronner, a German-American figure skater who contended in pairs and ice dance competition. The elder Muehlbronner competed internationally with Irene Maguire, the tandem won national silver medals in both pairs and ice dance in 1949 and 1950. The skating couple eventually married and continued skating as professionals, billed as “Walter and Irene” for 7 years, in the Ice Follies.

In later years, the Muehlbronner family settled in Philadelphia, Where Walter began working first as a figure skating teacher, then as a skating club manager. He was president of the Professional Skaters Association for a few years in the early 1970s, and retired from skating in 1990.

Like Father, like son, Wally also serves as Director of Programs at Wissahickon skating club where he coordinates figure, and synchronized ice skating. As well he organizes the youth hockey programs.

La Salle aka “Springfield Township Explorers” ice hockey and its troubled infancy

The sport of hockey at La Salle had its birth in the early 1970’s when it was formed as a club sport practicing at the Wissahickon Skating Club and played only non-league games.  At the time, hockey was not highly regarded as a sport by any school, including La Salle.  As a result, the team was not allowed to use the La Salle name, or logo and skated as the Springfield Township Explorers”.

In the mid-seventies, the Explorers joined the Suburban High School Hockey League (SHSHL) which then operated out of the Wintersport Arena in Willow Grove. Still known as the Springfield Township Explorers, the team was allowed to wear the official school colors, blue and gold and played against such rivals as Abington, Plymouth Whitemarsh, Upper Dublin, Roxborough, William Tennent, Archbishop Wood, Bishop McDevitt, Council Rock, Upper Moreland, Lower Moreland, and Germantown Academy.

1976 La Salle adopts the block “L” logo

In 1976, the team was at last allowed to use the school name though it remained a club sport.  As a show of appreciation, the team adopted the block “L” as its logo, replacing the golden arrow which had previously appeared on jerseys.  For the first time, a Junior Varsity program was added.

By the late seventies, the Suburban League had grown to thirty teams arranged into four divisions.  La Salle was grouped with Roxborough, North Catholic, and traditional rival, Bishop McDevitt.  In 1978-79, the team made its first appearance in the playoffs, losing in a valiant effort to a powerful Abington team.  That same year, La Salle participated in a new Catholic League sponsored by the Knights of Columbus.  La Salle joined McDevitt, Ryan, Bonner, North Catholic and Cardinal Dougherty to form the league, but despite strong interest in an all Catholic High School League, unresolved problems, not the least of which was the lack of support by the administrations of the schools, caused the league to fold after one season.

The arrival of the 1985-86 season saw a dramatic change in the La Salle program.  At odds with the disrupted Suburban League, La Salle opted to join the newly formed Northern Scholastic Hockey League (NSHL), which operated out of Wintersport.  LaSalle joined North Penn, Abington, Archbishop Wood, and now reestablished William Tennent as charter members of the Northern League.  Unfortunately, La Salle’s first year of varsity play in the Northern League would also be its last.  After another year of player shortages and a losing season in 1986-87, there was a movement to disband the club.  Finally, it was decided to compete on the J.V. level and stay in the Northern League.  The 1987-88 season ended two years of Junior Varsity competition and the beginning of a new league affiliations.

For the 1988-89 season, the Explorers joined the Inter County Scholastic Hockey League (ICSHL).  Though the first season of Inter County league play would result in only one win, a core group of players was assembled that would begin the rebirth of hockey at La Salle.  In 1989-90 the team took the ice with a new coach, alumnus Peter Nolan.  Armed with a new confidence, the team posted a winning record and missed the playoffs by one point.  It would be the last time a La Salle team would fail to make the playoffs!  Now skating both Varsity and Junior Varsity teams, the Explorers were poised for success in 1990-91.  The 1990-91 team posted as impressive regular ICSHL season, losing only three times in fifteen outings.  A winning tradition was beginning, and there was a growing pool of talented players in the club.

Muehlbronner takes over at La Salle

Muehlbronner’s career as head coach of the La Salle College High School Explorers began in the 1997-98 season. After former head coach Peter Nolan’s exit, Muehlbronner was excited to take on the head coaching challenge. The Explorers promptly tore through the ICSHL regular season with a 14-1-1 record en route to capturing the Inter-County Scholastic Hockey League Championship. The head coach quickly put the league championship game in the rear-view mirror to focus on the bigger prize, the Flyers Cup Class AAA Championship. Muelbronner’s squad was about to go up against the mid-90s buzz-saw Germantown Academy Patriots. John Ioia’s GA roster was equal to or better than any surrounding school and they proved it by going undefeated in the SHSHL regular season and winning the Suburban League finals. The teams met up at the Spectrum where Muehlbronner’s Explorers played host to Ioia’s GA Patriots. The teams were so evenly matched that the game almost had to be decided in overtime but La Salle senior defenseman, Mike Mauriello changed that when he scored a point shot with twenty-four seconds left to play in regulation to break a deadlocked 3-3 tie. The Explorers held on as the seconds ticked down to the final buzzer giving the first year coach a 4-3 win and his first ever Flyers Cup Class AAA Championship (video). The win captapulted the Explorers into the Pennsylvania Cup championship game against Central Catholic Prep at Rostraver Arena. Similar to their Flyers Cup matchup against Germantown this game was played to a one goal win, 3-2 in favor of the Explorers and thus completing the tri-fecta for the first year coach. A new era of La Salle hockey had begun.

1998 Flyers Cup final, Wally Muehlbronner behind the bench

The road forward….

Although Wally’s first season was one for the ages, the next several years wouldn’t be so easy. From 1999 thru 2007 the Explorers did participate in the Flyers Cup Tournament but didn’t make the finals. Many of the regular season records along the way were very good, first place even but the Explorers wouldn’t find paydirt in the Flyers Cup Tournament again until 2008. In fact 2008 is where the escapade begins for Muehlbronner and the future of Explorers high school ice hockey. Since then (including 2008) the Explorers have won the Class AAA Flyers Cup Championship an eye-popping ten times. That’s ten times in 16 years. Wally has built a power-house program which closely resembles some of the strongest preparatory, and boarding schools in the northeast United States. Players under Wally’s tutelage have benefited. To name a few, Sam Lipkin, Tyler Kolarik, Chad Kolarik, Adam Berkle, Adam Schmidt, Ryan Tyson, Al Washko, Terrance Wallin, Gabe Antoni, Nicholas Cruice, Connor Varley, Drew Smolcynski, the list goes on. All of the aforementioned have played or are still playing Division 1 college ice hockey, some including the Kolariks played or are still playing professionally. Ice runs through the Muehlbronner family bloodline. Wally, like his father has lived his professional life in a hockey rink teaching, and educating his students helping forge pathways for them into their adulthood. Wally’s job is not done, these stats will continue to evolve and I’ll be keeping track. When the name Wally Muehlbronner comes up in discussion, you know it’s about La Salle College High School Explorers ice hockey and it’s success. Wally holds the records for Class AAA Flyers Cup, and Pennsylvania Cup championship wins. He also holds the record for most regular season wins by any high school varsity ice hockey coach in the Delaware Valley.

Career stats


Flyers Cup Record:
11 Class AAA Championship wins, and 6 runners-up for a total of 18 appearances over 27 years.
2024, 2023, 2019, 2016, 2014, 2013, 2012, 2011, 2009, 2008, 1998

Pennsylvania Cup Class AAA Champions

Pennsylvania Cup Record:
6 Class AAA Championship wins
2023, 2019, 2016, 2012, 2009, 2008

League Championship Record, (This list is not complete)
Class AAA Championship wins
2024 – APAC, 2023 – APAC, 2020 – APAC, 2016 – ICSHL, 1999 – ICSHL, 1998 – ICSHL

Career season records
* The overall career records include regular season, non-league, and tournament games, (some seasons do not include non-league or tournament. The Inquirer didn’t keep track of anything but regular season). They do not include post season, or Flyers Cup. Additionally, I was unable to find 04/05/07 season results. Even without the latter, there isn’t another coach in the history of southeastern Pennsylvania High School Hockey who comes remotely close to Wally Muehlbronner’s win total.

TOTALS: 510 GP | 347 W | 105 L | 31 T | 19 OTW | 9 OTL

2006-2007ICSHLNo record
2004-2005ICSHLNo record
2003-2004ICSHLNo record
TOTALS:510 GP347 W105 L31 T19 OTW9 OTL

Historical content credit

  • Joe Santoliquito | The Philadelphia Inquirer
  • La Salle Explorers Program History
  • Hockey Happenings