Habscheid eighth WHL coach to 500 wins . . . Celebrates with chocolate sundae . . . Sutter should be next to milestone

MacBeth

F Justin Maylan (Moose Jaw, Prince George, Prince Albert, 2007-12) has  signed a contract for the rest of this season with Villach (Austria, Erste Bank Liga). Last season, he had eight goals and 31 assists in 44 games with Heilbronn (Germany, DEL2).


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Marc Habscheid, the head coach of the Prince Albert Raiders, became the eighth coach in WHL history with 500 regular-season victories as his club beat the Hurricanes, 6-5, in Lethbridge PrinceAlberton Saturday night.

Habscheid, a 55-year-old native of Swift Current, went into this season with 456 victories. The Raiders, who have the WHL’s best record, now are 45-7-2. Habscheid missed a Jan. 22 game — the Raiders beat the Royals, 4-1, in Victoria — while at the Top Prospects Game in Red Deer.

How did Habscheid celebrate last night? The Hurricanes stopped at a Dairy Queen. “I had a large chocolate sundae,” Habscheid told Taking Note. “The boys got whatever they wanted. Best $180 I ever spent.”

As for the picture in the above tweet, Habscheid said: “The picture with my boys will be with me forever.” If you look at the photo, that’s Habscheid wearing the top hat that is awarded to the team’s player of the game.

Habscheid coached in the WHL with the Kamloops Blazers, Kelowna Rockets, Chilliwack Bruins and Victoria Royals before signing on with the Raiders as a midseason replacement for Cory Clouston in 2014-15.

On Saturday, Habscheid coached in his 995th regular-season game. He is en route to becoming the eighth head coach in WHL history to reach the 1,000-game mark.

The Raiders next are to play on Wednesday when they visit the Swift Current Broncos.

Don Hay, now an assistant coach with the Portland Winterhawks, is No. 1 in victories (750), while former Portland head coach Ken Hodge is tops in games coached (1,364).

This season, on his way to No. 500, Habscheid has passed Dean Clark, Kelly McCrimmon, Jack Shupe and Peter Anholt, all former coaches, as well as Brent Sutter of the Red Deer Rebels.

Sutter, the owner, general manager and head coach of the Rebels, will be the next to 500. With the Rebels at 28-19-4, Sutter now has 495 regular-season victories.

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THE WHL’S 500 CLUB

1. Don Hay (Kamloops, Tri-City, Vancouver) 750

2. Ken Hodge (Edmonton, Portland), 742

3. Don Nachbaur (Seattle, Tri-City, Spokane) 692

4. Lorne Molleken (Moose Jaw, Saskatoon, Regina, Vancouver) 626

5. Mike Williamson (Portland, Calgary, Tri-City) 572

6. Ernie McLean (Estevan, New Westminster) 548

7. Pat Ginnell (Flin Flon, Victoria, Lethbridge, Medicine Hat, New Westminster) 518

8. Marc Habscheid (Kamloops, Kelowna, Chilliwack, Victoria, Prince Albert) 500


With G Jack McNaughton having been injured on Friday night, the Calgary Hitmen have Calgaryagain added G Brayden Peters to their roster. . . . McNaughton was hurt when he ventured out to the hashmarks after a loose puck and was involved in a first-period collision with F Brett Leason of the visiting Prince Albert Raiders. Both players left the game, which the Raiders won, 8-2, and didn’t return. . . . Peters plays for the midget AAA Lethbridge Hurricanes and had been up with the Hitmen previously to backup McNaughton with Carl Stankowski injured. . . . Stankowski is back now and will carry the load with McNaughton out, starting today against the visiting Moose Jaw Warriors.

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Meanwhile, F Brett Leason of the Prince Albert Raiders, who was involved in that collision with Calgary Hitmen G Jack McNaughton, sat out Saturday night’s game in Lethbridge against the Hurricanes.

Marc Habscheid, the Raiders’ head coach, told play-by-play man Trevor Redden that Leason is “nicked up . . . but it’s nothing earth-shattering and we’ll provide him with a bit of rest.”

The Raiders also scratched G Ian Scott, giving him a night off, and had Brett Balas up from the AJHL’s Calgary Canucks to back up Boston Bilous. . . . Balas, who turned 18 on Jan. 31, was a third-round pick in the WHL’s 2016 bantam draft. He got into two games with the Raiders earlier in the season, going 2-0-0, 2.56, .871.

This may have been the first time in WHL history that a team had a B.B. in goal and a B.B. on the bench.


F Conner Bruggen-Cate was welcomed with open mouths, as opposed to open arms, on Saturday night when his Kelowna Rockets met the Blazers in Kamloops.

These two teams played in Kelowna on Feb. 2 and, yes, something happened. Whatever it was it resulted in two-game suspensions to Bruggen-Cate and Kamloops D Montana Onyebuchi.

Bruggen-Cate was suspended for what the WHL said were his “actions.” Those “actions” appeared to set off Oyebuchi, who tried to get at Bruggen-Cate, who chose not to engage. Onyebuchi was suspended for a one-man fight.

Had the WHL suspended each player for three games, neither would have been eligible to play on Saturday night.

As it was, Onyebuchi completed his sentence, while Bruggen-Cate was in the Rockets’ lineup.

The announced crowd of 3,365 didn’t seem too aware of Bruggen-Cate’s presence until early in the second period when he was booed while on an early power play. The boos turned to cheers less than two minutes later when he was penalized for interference.

From that point on, he was booed most times he touched the puck, but he turned the boos to cheers, again with another interference penalty late in the period.

The 19-year-old from Abbotsford, B.C., got the last laugh, however, as the Rockets won the game, 4-1.

As for what happened on the ice on Feb. 2, well, no one’s talking. It’s almost as though the WHL implemented a gag rule.

On Friday night, Jo Hendricks, a frequent anthem singer at Blazers games, performed while wearing an Onyebuchi sweater. Without the rugged defenceman, the Blazers dropped a 3-1 decision to the Vancouver Giants.


The visiting WHL teams at the ShoWare Center in Kent, Wash., the home of the Seattle Thunderbirds, will notice a new look in their dressing room next season. The KeyArena in Seattle will be undergoing huge renovations in anticipation of the arrival of an NHL expansion team, so the Seattle University Redhawks men’s basketball team is expected to play a handful of games in Kent. University officials have asked that the visitors’ dressing room be painted in the team colours, and the arena operators have agreed. . . . Meanwhile, the WNBA’s Seattle Storm, which also plays in KeyArena, will play five home games in Everett’s Angel of the Winds Arena, the home of the Silvertips. But the Storm season doesn’t begin until May, so the Silvertips shouldn’t be affected. . . . Steve Hunter of the Kent Reporter has those tidbits and more in a story detailing the ShoWare Center’s 2018 finances, and it’s all right here.


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Hay back in coaching game? Is he filling vacancy with Winterhawks? . . . Source has him going to Portland

Don Hay, with more regular-season and playoff victories than any coach in WHL history, may be joining the Portland Winterhawks as an assistant coach.

A source familiar with the situation informed Taking Note late Friday night that Hay is being added to the Portland coaching staff.

The Winterhawks have an opening after announcing on Friday that Danny Flynn is leaving after one year as an assistant coach to work as an amateur scout in Eastern Canada for the NHL’s Columbus Blue Jackets. In the news release announcing Flynn’s departure, the Winterhawks said they would fill the position “within the coming days.”

DonHay
A source has told Taking Note that Don Hay will be joining the Portland Winterhawks as an assistant coach. (Photo: Gregg Drinnan)

Hay spent the past four seasons as the head coach of the Kamloops Blazers. Tom Gaglardi, the Blazers’ majority owner, announced Hay’s retirement at a news conference on May 10. Hay, who wasn’t present at the news conference, was reassigned as a hockey operations consultant in the team’s front office.

The next day, Hay, 64, met with the media outside the Blazers’ dressing room and it was most apparent that he wanted to continue coaching.

Later, on May 22, Hay told Don Taylor and Bob Marjanovich of TSN-Vancouver 1040 that he was prepared to look at “all different possibilities.”

“I do want to coach,” Hay said. “I still have the passion to coach . . . the passion is still there.

“I enjoy getting up every day and having the challenge of coaching and going to the rink. Coaching is more than just teaching hockey. It’s life skills and social skills for the young guys who are leaving home at an early age. It’s something that I’ve done for a long time that I feel I can still do a good job of.”

Hay finished the 2017-18 season with 750 regular-season victories, having broken the mark of 742 that had been held by Ken Hodge, who coached the original Edmonton Oil Kings (1973-76) and the Winterhawks, before retiring after the 1992-93 season.

Hay also is No. 1 in WHL playoff victories, with 108, seven more than Hodge.

Mike Johnston, the Winterhawks’ vice-president, general manager and head coach, became the 23rd head coach in WHL history to get to 300 victories. He finished the season at 315.

Hay was part of three Memorial Cup-winning teams in Kamloops. He was an assistant coach with the Blazers when the won in 1992, and was the head coach in 1994 and 1995.

Hay last worked as an assistant coach with the NHL’s Mighty Ducks of Anaheim in 1997-98. He later spent three seasons (2001-04) as the head coach of the AHL’s Utah Grizzlies, before working as head coach of the Vancouver Giants for 10 seasons. He left the Giants to join the Blazers for the 2014-15 season.

This summer, Hay was the head coach of the Canadian team that played at the U-18 IIHF World Championship in Russia. Canada lost 2-1 to Czech Republic in a quarterfinal game.

Johnston and Hay have been close friends since they worked together on the Canadian national junior team’s coaching staff as it won the 1995 World Junior Championship in Red Deer.

“He was a big help on that coaching staff,” Hay told me last season, “and we’ve been friends ever since.”

Now, it seems, they’ll be working together again.

The Winterhawks are scheduled to play twice in Kamloops this season, and they’ll get those games out of the way early, on Oct. 3 and 5. The Blazers are to play in Portland on Oct. 27 and 28.

Hay takes over as No. 1 as Blazers win . . . He’s tops in playoff wins, too . . . He’s third all-time in CHL

Hay743-1
Don Hay of the Kamloops Blazers acknowledges the crowd on Saturday after becoming the WHL’s winningest regular-season head coach. (Photo: Allen Dougas/Kamloops This week)

Don Hay moved to the top of the WHL’s regular-season coaching ladder on Saturday as his Kamloops Blazers beat the visiting Portland Winterhawks, 4-2.

Hay now has 743 regular-season coaching victories, split between the Blazers (275), Vancouver Giants (401) and Tri-City Americans (67).

He had tied Ken Hodge’s record on Friday when the Blazers beat the Winterhawks, 5-2.

Hodge was the head coach of the original Edmonton Oil Kings for three seasons (1973-

Hay743-2
Colin Robinson, the Kamloops Blazers’ athletic therapist, congratulates head coach Don Hay with a bear hug, while assistant coaches Mike Needham (left) and Chris Murray await their turns. (Photo: Allen Douglas/Kamloops This Week)

76). The franchise relocated to Portland after that season, and Hodge was the coach there for 17 seasons. He retired from coaching after the 1992-93 season.

A native of Kamloops, Hay, who will turn 64 on Feb. 13, is in his second go-round with the Blazers. The first time, he was the head coach for three seasons (1992-95). He later coached the Americans for two seasons (1998-2000) and the Giants for 10 (2004-14).

He is in his fourth season in this stint with the Blazers.

Hay already was No. 1 in WHL playoff victories as a head coach, with 108, seven more than Hodge and 21 more than Kelly McCrimmon, who won that many postseason games with the Brandon Wheat Kings. McCrimmon now is an assistant general manager with the NHL’s Vegas Golden Knights.

Put it altogether and Hay has 851 WHL coaching victories.

He also has been part of four Memorial Cup champions, three of them with the Blazers. He was an assistant coach when the Blazers won the 1992 title, and was the head coach for championships in 1994 and 1995. He was the Giants’ head coach when they won in 2006.

With the Blazers having swept the doubleheader from the Winterhawks in Kamloops, it left Mike Johnston, Portland’s vice-president, general manager and head coach, stalled at 299 regular-season victories. He gets his next chance to become the 23rd coach in WHL history with 300 victories when the Winterhawks play host to the Blazers later today.

Meanwhile, Hay is third in Canadian Hockey League regular-season coaching history with his 743 victories. The leader is Brian Kilrea, who won 1,193 games with the OHL’s Ottawa 67’s. Second on the list is Bert Templeton, who put up 907 victories with six different OHL franchises. Kilrea and Templeton are retired.


Here’s a look at the 22 WHL head coaches who have more than 300 regular-season victories:

1. Don Hay (Kamloops, Tri-City, Vancouver) 743

2. Ken Hodge (Edmonton, Portland), 742

3. Don Nachbaur (Seattle, Tri-City, Spokane) 692

4. Lorne Molleken (Moose Jaw, Saskatoon, Regina) 626

5. Mike Williamson (Portland, Calgary, Tri-City) 558

6. Ernie McLean (Estevan, New Westminster) 548

7. Pat Ginnell (Flin Flon, Victoria, Lethbridge, Medicine Hat, New Westminster) 518

8. Peter Anholt (Prince Albert, Seattle, Red Deer, Kelowna, Lethbridge) 466

    Jack Shupe (Medicine Hat, Victoria) 466

10. Dean Clark (Calgary, Brandon, Kamloops, Prince George) 465

11. Kelly McCrimmon (Brandon) 456

12. Brent Sutter (Red Deer) 453

      Bob Lowes (Seattle, Brandon, Regina) 453

14. Marc Habscheid (Kamloops, Kelowna, Chilliwack, Victoria, Prince Albert) 444

15. Doug Sauter (Calgary, Medicine Hat, Regina, Brandon) 417

16. Marcel Comeau (Calgary, Saskatoon, Tacoma, Kelowna) 411

17. Bryan Maxwell (Medicine Hat, Spokane, Lethbridge) 397

18. Graham James (Moose Jaw, Swift Current, Calgary) 349

19. Shaun Clouston (Tri-City, Medicine Hat) 346

20. Bob Loucks (Lethbridge, Tri-City, Medicine Hat) 340

21. Willie Desjardins (Saskatoon, Medicine Hat) 333

22. Kevin Constantine (Everett) 326


Here are the OHL’s top five winningest regular-season head coaches:

1,193 — Brian Kilrea (Ottawa)

907 — Bert Templeton (Hamilton, St. Catharines, Niagara Falls, North Bay, Barrie, Sudbury)

687 — Dale Hunter (London)

672 — Stan Butler (Oshawa, Brampton, North Bay)

637 — George Burnett (Niagara Falls, Guelph, Oshawa, Belleville, Hamilton)

Hunter, Butler and Burnett are still active. Their totals are through Saturday’s games. . . . Butler also spent one season (1996-97) with the WHL’s Prince George Cougars, winning 28 games.


Here are the QMJHL’s top five winningest regular-season head coaches:

589 — Richard Martel (Chicoutimi, St-Hyacinthe, Val-d’Or, Baie-Comeau)

569 — Guy Chouinard (Longueuil, Victoriaville, Verdun, Trois-Rivières, Sherbrooke, Laval, Quebec, PEI)

541 — Real Paiement (Granby, Chicoutimi, Moncton, Acadie-Bathurst, St. John’s)

500 — Mario Durocher (Sherbrooke, Victoriaville, Sherbrooke, Lewiston, Acadie-Bathurst, Cape Breton, Val-d’Or)

467 — Benoit Groulx (Hull, Gatineau)

Yanick Jean, now with the Victoriaville Tigers, is No. 1 among active coaches, with 402.

Saturday in the WHL: Record for Hay . . . Two goals for Rasmussen in return . . . Four points for Budik . . . Ice sweeps Wheat Kings

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Scoreboard

SATURDAY:

At Prince Albert, D Vojtech Budik had a goal and three assists to lead the Raiders to a 9-2 victory over the Edmonton Oil Kings. . . . Prince Albert (20-20-9) has points in five straight PrinceAlbert(4-0-1). The Raiders are four points behind Saskatoon, which holds down the Eastern Conference’s second wild-card spot. . . . Edmonton (13-29-7) has lost four in a row (0-3-1). . . . F Cole Fonstad gave the Raiders a 1-0 lead, on a PP, at 9:25 of the first period. . . . F Parker Kelly (21) made it 2-0 at 10:12. . . . F Trey Fix-Wolansky got Edmonton on the scoreboard 28 seconds into the second period. . . . Fonstad (15) got that one back at 4:38 and Budik (8) made it 4-1, on a PP, at 9:23. . . . Fix-Wolansky (20) cut into the deficit at 19:07. . . . The Raiders put it away with five third-period goals, two of them from F Kody McDonald, who has 25 goals, and one each from F Justin Nachbaur (5), D Zack Hayes (2) and F Nikita Krivokrasov (1). . . . The Raiders got two assists from each of D Brayden Pachal and D Max Martin, with Hayes, Fonstad and Nachbaur getting one each. . . . F Tomas Soustal had two assists for Edmonton. . . . Prince Albert was 2-5 on the PP; Edmonton was 0-2. . . . G Ian Scott recorded the victory with 18 saves. . . . Edmonton starter Todd Scott allowed six goals on 25 shots in 44:00. Josh Dechaine finished up with six saves on nine shots in 16:00. . . . Raiders F Regan Nagy (knee) took the pregame warmup but didn’t play in this one. . . . Announced attendance: 1,865.


At Swift Current, F Glenn Gawdin scored twice to lead the Broncos to a 3-1 victory over the Regina Pats. . . . Swift Current (34-12-4) had lost its previous three games (0-2-1). The SCBroncosBroncos lead the season series, 3-0-0. . . . Swift Current is second in the overall standings, nine points behind Moose Jaw. . . . Regina (25-21-5) had points in each of its previous two games (1-0-1). The Pats are fourth in the East Division, six points behind Brandon. . . . The Pats held a 16-11 edge in first-period shots, but mustered only seven shots through the final 40 minutes. . . . D Libor Hajek (10) gave Regina a 1-0 lead at 7:35 of the first period. . . . Gawdin tied it at 8:48 of the second period, then gave his guys a 2-1 lead with his 39th goal, on a PP, at 11:38 of the third. . . . D Artyom Minulin (10), who also had an assist, got the empty-netter, at 19:28. . . . Regina was 1-4 on the PP; Swift Current was 1-5. . . . The Broncos got 22 stops from G Stuart Skinner, while Regina’s Ryan Kubic turned aside 42. . . . While F Jake Leschyshyn and F Emil Oksanen returned to Regina’s lineup, the Broncos were without D Sahvan Khaira and F Kole Gable. . . . These teams will play in Regina this afternoon. . . . Announced attendance: 2,879.


At Saskatoon, F Josh Paterson scored in the sixth round of a shootout to give the Blades a 4-3 victory over the Prince George Cougars. . . . Saskatoon (25-23-3) has won two in a row Saskatoonand now is two points behind Regina, which holds down the Eastern Conference’s first wild-card spot. . . . Prince George (18-24-8) is 0-1-1 on its East Division swing and now is 11 points out of the playoffs. . . . Paterson had given the Blades a 1-0 lead with his 25th goal at 11:39 of the first period. . . . The Cougars took a 2-1 lead on goals from D Joel Lakusta (6), at 18:18 of the second period, and F Ilijah Colina (5), at 0:53 of the third. . . . Saskatoon F Braylon Shmyr (26) got the Blades even, on a PP, at 6:50. That was his 100th career goal in his 279th game. He has 70 goals in 151 games with the Blades, who acquired him from Brandon. . . . D Ryan Schoettler (4) gave the visitors a 3-2 lead at 14:05. . . . The Blades thought they had tied it, 3-3, with 56 seconds left in the third period when F Caleb Fantillo tipped a point shot from D Evan Fiala. But it was ruled that the puck was contacted by a high stick. . . . F Max Gerlach (24) tied it for real just 16 seconds later. . . . F Chase Wouters had two assists for the winners, with Shmyr adding one. . . . The Blades were 2-4 on the PP; the Cougars were 1-4. . . . G Tyler Brown stopped 35 shots through OT for Saskatoon. At the other end, Isaiah DiLaura blocked 36 shots. . . . The Blades had Fiala back after he served a one-game WHL suspension. D Dawson Davidson also returned after missing one game due to illness. . . . Announced attendance: 3,817.


At Red Deer, F Kristian Reichel’s OT goal gave the Rebels a 3-2 victory over the Kelowna Rockets. . . . Red Deer (12-25-11) has won two in a row. It had lost its previous eight OT Red Deergames. . . . Kelowna (31-14-4) has points in four straight (3-0-1). This was the third straight game in which it went to OT. It went 2-0-1. . . . The Rockets lead the Western Conference by one point over Everett. . . . F Leif Mattson (17) put the Rockets out front at 14:41 of the second period. . . . Red Deer took a 2-1 lead on goals from F Mason McCarty (25), at 17:33, and F Josh Tarzwell (5), shorthanded, at 1:25 of the third period. . . . The Rockets forced OT when F Kole Lind (26) struck at 19:27. . . . Reichel (17) won it at 2:46 of extra time. . . . Red Deer was 0-2 on the PP; Kelowna was 0-4. . . . The Rebels got a big game from G Ethan Anders, who stopped 41 shots. . . . G Cole Tisdale stopped 19 shots for the Rockets as the 15-year-old made his third WHL start. . . . Kelowna had F Dillon Dube back after a two-game absence. He picked up one assist. . . . Announced attendance: 4,644.


At Cranbrook, B.C., F Peyton Krebs scored twice to spark the Kootenay Ice to a 3-2 victory over the Brandon Wheat Kings. . . . Kootenay (23-23-3) has won three in a row, including Kootenaynewa 6-2 victory over Brandon on Friday night. It is third in the Central Division, one point behind Lethbridge. . . . Brandon (28-17-5) has lost eight straight (0-5-3). The Wheat Kings were 0-5-2 on a seven-game road trip that ended with this one. They are third in the East Division, 11 points behind Swift Current. . . . Krebs gave his guys a 1-0 lead at 19:29 of the first period. . . . F Cameron Hausinger (15) made it 2-0 at 12:46 of the second. . . . Brandon F Stelio Mattheos (33) cut into the lead at 12:56. . . . Krebs, who has 13 goals, made it 3-1 at 18:18. . . . The Wheat Kings got back to within a goal on F Luka Burzan’s eighth score, shorthanded, at 5:47 of the third period. . . . Burzan also had an assist. . . . Brandon was 0-1 on the PP; Kootenay was 0-2. . . . G Matt Berlin stopped 19 shots for Kootenay, while Brandon’s Logan Thompson turned aside 32. . . . Before the game, the Ice announced that it had returned D Nolan Orzeck to the midget AAA Calgary Northstars. Orzeck, 16, got into two games this time, after making his WHL debut in October. . . . Announced attendance: 3,474. That’s the largest announced crowd of the season. The announced attendance for their home-opener was 3,392.


At Medicine Hat, the Tigers scored twice on a five-minute PP in the second period en route to a 5-3 victory over the Moose Jaw Warriors. . . . Medicine Hat (26-19-6) has points Tigers Logo Officialin three in a row (2-0-1). It leads the Central Division by eight points over Lethbridge. . . . Moose Jaw (39-8-3) had won its previous four games. It leads the overall standings by nine points over Swift Current. . . . F Brayden Burke (24) gave the visitors a 1-0 lead at 18:41 of the first period. . . . The Tigers tied it when F Ryan Chyzowski (16) scored at 3:55 of the second period. . . . F Tanner Jeannot (33) put the Warriors out front just 34 seconds later. . . . At 12:11, Moose Jaw F Barrett Sheen was given a headshot major and game misconduct for a hit on Tigers D Joel Craven, who had to be helped off the ice. . . . The Tigers scored twice on the ensuing PP, with D David Quenneville counting at 13:07, and F James Hamblin (15) making it 3-2 at 16:25. . . . The Tigers went up 4-2 at 1:57 of the third period as F Mark Rassell (42) scored. . . . F Ryan Peckford (18) got the visitors back to within a goal at 12:11. . . . Quenneville, who has 21 goals, iced it with the empty-netter at 19:58. . . . The Tigers got three assists from F Ryan Jevne, with Hamblin, Rassell, Chyzowski and Quenneville adding one each. . . . D Kale Clague drew two assists for the Warriors, with Jeannot adding one. . . . The Tigers were 2-7 on the PP; the Warriors were 0-0 as the Tigers weren’t assessed even one penalty. . . . G Jordan Hollett stopped 33 shots to earn the victory. . . . The Warriors got 19 stops from G Adam Evanoff. . . . The Tigers scratched F Tyler Preziuso, who left Friday’s 4-3 OT loss to visiting Kelowna after being struck on the head by a puck. . . . Moose Jaw D Jett Woo remains out of the lineup. . . . Announced attendance: 3,268.


At Kamloops, Don Hay became the winningest head coach in WHL history as his Blazers erased a 2-0 first-period deficit and beat the Portland Winterhawks, 4-2. . . . Hay now has Kamloops1743 regular-season victories, one more than Ken Hodge, who retired as Portland’s head coach after 1992-93. . . . Kamloops (23-23-3) has won five in a row. It remains six points away from a playoff spot. . . . Portland (28-17-4) has lost two straight. It dropped a 5-2 decision in Kamloops on Friday. The Winterhawks are third in the U.S. Division, five points behind Everett. . . . The teams headed for Portland immediately after this one. They’ve got a date there today at 5 p.m. . . . The Winterhawks got first-period goals from F Skyler McKenzie (37), shorthanded, at 4:29, and F Jake Gricius (11), at 12:06. . . . The Blazers tied it in the second period as F Connor Zary (6), at 5:37, and F Luc Smith (13), at 11:31, found the range. . . . F Quinn Benjafield (17) broke the 2-2 tie 43 seconds into the third period. . . . F Luc Smith (14) got the empty-netter at 18:56. . . . D Nolan Kneen had two assists for the Blazers. . . . Kamloops was 0-2 on the PP; Portland was 0-4. . . . G Dylan Ferguson earned the victory with 32 saves. . . . G Shane Farkas stopped 32 shots for Portland. . . . The Winterhawks were without D Matthew Quigley, who drew a two-game suspension for an elbow to the head that took out Kamloops F/D Tylor Ludwar on Friday. Quigley wasn’t penalized on the play, but was suspended after the Blazers filed for supplementary discipline. . . . These teams will play again today in Portland, so Quigley will sit out that one, too. . . . It’s safe to assume that Ludwar is in the concussion protocol and won’t play today, either. . . . The Winterhawks again were without F Cody Glass and F Kieffer Bellows, both out with undisclosed injuries. No word on whether either one might return today. . . . Announced attendance: 3,651.


At Kent, Wash., D Austin Strand scored the only goal of a three-round shootout to give the Seattle Thunderbirds a 3-2 victory over the Everett Silvertips. . . . Seattle (26-17-6) had Seattledropped a 3-1 decision in Everett on Friday. It is third in the U.S. Division, two points behind Portland. . . . The Silvertips (31-16-3) have points in nine straight (8-0-1). They are second in the Western Conference, one point behind Kelowna. . . . Everett took a 1-0 lead when F Connor Dewar scored at 3:44 of the first period. . . . F Blake Bargar (10) tied it at 7:34 of the second period. . . . Dewar, who has 25 goals, put the visitors back out front at 7:41 of the third period. . . . F Matthew Wedman (10) scored on a PP at 10:25 as Seattle pulled even again. . . . Strand was the first shooter of the third round. . . . F Garrett Pilon had two assists for Everett. . . . Seattle was 1-3 on the PP; Everett was 0-2. . . . G Liam Hughes earned the victory with 34 saves through OT. . . . G Carter Hart turned aside 29 shots for Everett. . . . Seattle was in a shootout for the third straight home game and it won all of them. . . . F Sami Moilanen was among Seattle’s scraches after leaving Friday’s game with an undisclosed injury. . . . F Payton Mount, who turned 16 on Jan. 19, made his debut with the Thunderbirds. From Victoria, he was a first-round pick in the 2017 WHL bantam draft. He plays at the Delta Hockey Academy. . . . Announced attendance: 5,476.


At Kennewick, Wash., D Dylan Coghlan’s second goal of the game, in OT, gave the Tri-City Americans a 5-4 victory over the Spokane Chiefs. . . . Tri-City (24-16-7) has points in four TriCity30straight (2-0-2). It holds down the Western Conference’s second wild-card spot, one point behind Spokane. . . . Spokane (26-19-4) has points in five straight (5-0-1). . . . The Americans overcame a 4-1 deficit by scoring the game’s last four goals. . . . F Jaret Anderson-Dolan (25), at 5:37 of the first period, and F Ethan McIndoe (15), at 1:15 of the second, gave the Chiefs a 2-0 lead. . . . Coghlan halved the deficit on a PP, at 2:43. . . . The Chiefs then got two quick goals to go up 4-1. D Ty Smith (7) scored at 3:46 and F Zach Fischer (22) counted at 4:39. . . . F Michael Rasmussen started the comeback at 10:26, and F Riley Sawchuk (6) cut the deficit to a goal at 14:11. . . . Rasmussen (18) tied it at 19:00 of the third. Coghlan then won it with his 15th goal at 1:14 of extra time. . . . The tying goal originally was credited to Coghlan, which would have meant the winner gave him a hat trick. But the Americans said after the game that the goal will be credited to Rasmussen. . . . F Jordan Topping drew three assists for the Americans, while Rasmussen, in his first game since Dec. 16, added one, as did F Isaac Johnson. . . . Rasmussen had wrist surgery before Christmas. . . . The Chiefs got two assists from D Filip Kral, with Anderson-Dolan getting one. . . . Tri-City was 1-1 on the PP; Spokane was 0-2. . . . G Patrick Tea recorded the victory with 33 saves, seven more than Spokane’s Dawson Weatherill. . . . Tri-City remains without D Juuso Valimaki, D Roman Kalinichenko and F Kyle Olson. . . . Announced attendance: 5,022.


At Victoria, F Tanner Kaspick and F Matthew Phillips each scored twice as the Royals beat the Calgary Hitmen, 4-1. . . . Victoria (29-17-4) has won two in a row. It is second in VictoriaRoyalsthe B.C. Division, four points behind Kelowna. . . . Calgary (15-27-6) will play in Victoria again today in Game 2 of a seven-game road trip. . . . The Royals got out to a 3-0 lead on a goal from Phillips at 1:01 of the first period and two from Kaspick, at 12:03 of the first and at 3:22 of the second, the latter on a PP. . . . F Luke Coleman (10) scored Calgary’s goal, on a PP, at 12:57. . . . Phillips got his 35th goal, on a PP, at 14:52. . . . F Tyler Soy had three assists for Victoria. . . . Kaspick has six goals and two assists in seven games since Victoria acquired him from Brandon at the trade deadline. Four of those six goals have been game-winners. . . . Victoria was 2-3 on the PP; Calgary was 1-9. . . . Victoria G Griffen Outhouse stopped 21 of 22 shots in 58:59. Dean McNabb finished up with two saves in 1:01. . . . Calgary got 18 saves from G Nick Schneider. . . . F Jakob Stukel, with a team-high 22 goals, was among Calgary’s scratches. . . . Announced attendance: 5,638.


SUNDAY (all times local):

Swift Current at Regina, 4 p.m.

Lethbridge at Red Deer, 5 p.m.

Spokane at Everett, 4:05 p.m.

Kamloops at Portland, 5 p.m.

Seattle vs. Tri-City, at Kennewick, Wash., 5:05 p.m.

Calgary at Victoria, 5:05 p.m.


TWEET OF THE DAY

Hay reminisces after tying WHL record . . . Shares career mark with Hodge . . . Standard of 742 could fall tonight

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Kamloops head coach Don Hay (third from left) accepts congratulations from forward Carson Denomie at the bench as trainer Colin Robinson (left) and assistant coaches Dan DePalma, Aaron Keller and Mike Needham wait to greet him.

Down below, the arena had emptied as the mostly satisified fans headed out into the Kamloops night.

The cleaning staff was sweeping and picking up bottles, getting ready for another day and another game.

In the press box, Don Hay pulled up a chair, the radio interview finished and most of his responsibilities done for the night. He undid his tie, took a deep breath and offered up a satisfied smile.

Hay’s Kamloops Blazers had just beaten the Portland Winterhawks, 5-2, for what was the 742nd regular-season coaching victory of his WHL career.

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That tied Hay with Ken Hodge as the winningest regular-season coaches in WHL history. Hodge had held the record since retiring as a coach after the 1992-93 season. Hodge spent the first three seasons (1973-76) of his WHL coaching career with the original Edmonton Oil Kings, and the remainder with the Winterhawks, the franchise having moved to the Oregon city after the 1975-76 season.

Hay will have an opportunity to break the record tonight as the Blazers and Winterhawks complete a doubleheader in Kamloops. They will play again Sunday, too, this time in Portland.

Hay, who will be 63 next month, and Hodge, 71, are hockey lifers.

Hodge’s playing career was cut short by an eye injury while with the Moose Jaw Canucks of what was then the Western Canada Hockey League, and he turned to coaching. He may have been the youngest head coach in junior hockey history when, at 21, he took over the QMJHL’s Sorel Eperviers in 1968.

As a result, Hay and Hodge were never opponents as players, but they certainly were as coaches.

Their paths did come within a couple of seasons of crossing at one point. Hodge was the head coach of the International league’s Flint Generals for four seasons (1969-73). Hay played one season with the Generals, 1975-76, by which time Hodge was with the Oil Kings.

On Friday, when Hay looked back, the first memory came from Oct. 9, 1992 . . .

Hay, then 38, had gotten his first victory on opening night, Sept. 26, 1992, when the Blazers beat the host Tacoma Rockets, 7-6 in overtime. “Yeah,” Hay says, “we were losing after two periods and Hnat Domenichelli got a hat trick in the third.”

The Blazers went on to lose 7-3 to the Chiefs in Spokane on Oct. 2, then dropped a 4-3 OT decision in Portland the next night.

But it’s that Oct. 9 game that sticks in Hay’s memory.

It was his first home game as the Blazers’ head coach. A Kamloops native, he spent seven seasons as an assistant coach with the team, before taking a leave of absence from the city’s fire department and signing on as head coach.

This game also was the first in the history of what was then Riverside Coliseum and now is the Sandman Centre.

“The building was full and we raised a banner,” Hay says.

The Blazers had won the WHL championship and the Memorial Cup in 1991-92.

“After the game, I’m in my office, my assistants don’t come in,” Hay continues. “We lost about 8-2. We got taught a lesson by Mr. Hodge.”

Aaron Keller and Chris Murray, both of them now on Hay’s coaching staff, were in the Kamloops lineup that night.

“I asked Aaron, ‘Do you remember that game?’ ” Hay says. “He told me, ‘Oh yeah, we lost 8-2.’ ”

Hay chuckles again. He loves the stories and the memories.

“I can remember sitting in that room going, ‘Did I make the right decision leaving the fire hall? Maybe I should go back to the fire hall.’

“(General manager) Bob Brown came in and he was really good. He said, ‘You’re the guy to coach us. We have a lot of faith and belief in you.’ ”

Hay spent two more seasons as the Blazers’ head coach, winning back-to-back Memorial Cups in 1994 and ’95, before giving the pro game a try.

He later spent two seasons (1998-2000) as head coach of the Tri-City Americans before trying the pro game again.

He returned to the WHL in 2004 and spent 10 seasons with the Vancouver Giants, before coming back to his hometown over the summer of 2014.

By the time Hay returned to the WHL, Hodge had retired from coaching. He spent the next 15 seasons as the general manager, and was an owner for part of that time.

“I didn’t coach a lot of games against him, but when I was an assistant those seven years we had a lot of playoff series with him,” Hay says. “I really respect the job he did . . . it’s a pretty special record to tie.

“And it was nice to do it at home.”

Hay also tied the record with a good friend working the other bench.

Mike Johnston, Portland’s vice-president, general manager and head coach, and Hay have been friends since they were together on the coaching staff with Team Canada as it won the 1995 World Junior Championship in Red Deer.

“He was a big help on that coaching staff,” Hay says, “and we’ve been friends ever since.”

They are close enough that they try to to spend at least one day each summer playing golf, having lunch “and talking hockey,” Hay says. They also connect at various coaches’ conferences.

When was the last time they spoke?

Hay chuckles and says: “I talked to him (Friday) morning . . . we’ll probably talk (this) morning.”

Later today, their teams will meet as Hay gets his first shot at becoming the winningest regular-season coach in WHL history.

At the same time, Johnston, who turns 61 next month, will be trying to become the 23rd head coach in WHL history with 300 victories.

No matter the outcome, the friendship will endure. Johnston, like Hay, is a hockey lifer.

Hay closing in on top spot in WHL record book . . . One victory from Hodge’s long-standing mark . . . Standard may fall this weekend

Don Hay, the head coach of the Kamloops Blazers, goes into this weekend with 741 regular-season WHL coaching victories. That is one off the record of 742 that has been held by Ken Hodge since 1993.

Hodge was a long-time head coach with the Portland Winterhawks, who will play in Kamloops on Friday and Saturday nights. The teams then will head for Portland and a Sunday date.

At the same time, Mike Johnston, the Winterhawks’ vice-president, general manager and head coach, is in search of his 300th regular-season victory, all of the with Portland. He will become the 23rd coach in WHL history with at least 300 victories.

On top of that, the Winterhawks will be playing their 3,000th regular-season WHL game on Friday night.

Before the 2015-16 WHL season began, Hay and I sat down for coffee and a chat. What follows is the I wrote for The Coaches Site.


It was late on the afternoon of May 21, 1995.

There was pandemonium in Riverside Coliseum, the home arena of the WHL’s Kamloops Blazers, who had just beaten the Detroit Jr. Red Wings, 8-2, to win their third Memorial Cup championship in four years.

Don Hay, the Kamloops native who was the Blazers’ head coach, stood in their dressing room and watched the celebration carrying on around him.

More than 20 years later, he recalls: “I was in the dressing room going, ‘What am I going

DonHay
Don Hay, the head coach of the Kamloops Blazers, has held a lot of media scrums during his lengthy coaching career. (Photo: Gregg Drinnan)

to do now? What am I going to do now? Am I going to quit the Blazers?’ ”

Hay had been on the Blazers’ coaching staff for 10 years at that point, the last three as head coach. Earlier, when he was an assistant coach, he also was a Kamloops firefighter.

“Coaching was different then,” he says. “Believe it or not, there’s more security now than there was then, and I had a good job (with the fire department).”

History shows that Hay didn’t get out of the coaching game, and he never returned to the firehall. He moved on to the NHL, came back to the WHL, and then returned to the NHL before once again coming back to the WHL.

He’s back in Kamloops now, as the Blazers’ head coach, and he is really comfortable being back home.

In a lengthy conversation with the 2015-16 WHL season on the horizon, Hay touches on a lot of things and tells some stories.

—————

Tom Renney had been the head coach when the Blazers began that Memorial Cup run by winning the 1992 championship in Seattle. After that victory, Renney signed a two-year contract with the Blazers. However, he wasn’t in Kamloops long enough to get it started.

During the summer, Dave King left Hockey Canada, where he had been head coach of the national men’s team. Hockey Canada asked Renney if he wanted that job.

“That was always Tom’s dream job, to coach the national team,” Hay says. “He grew up in Nelson watching the (Trail) Smokies and teams like that, and his dad was into that. So he left in the middle of July.”

That’s when Blazers general manager Bob Brown asked Hay, a seven-year assistant coach, if he wanted to succeed Renney.

Interestingly, Hay actually had taken a bit of a step back from the Blazers. His children were old enough that they were getting actively involved in sports and he was able to spend more time with them. And, of course, there was the job with the Kamloops Fire Department.

“I had to take a two-year leave of absence from the firehall,” Hay recalls. “I wasn’t going to go anywhere else to coach. I wasn’t going to leave the security of the firehall. I actually took a paycut to come and coach the Blazers.”

Hay signed a two-year contract as the Blazers’ head coach. That contract was up after the Blazers won the 1994 Memorial Cup in Laval, Que.

“That was the end of my two years,” Hay says. “We had just won the Memorial Cup and I had to make a decision whether I’m going to go back to the firehall.”

Except that the Blazers were to be the host team for the 1995 Memorial Cup tournament.

“So,” Hay says, “they said, ‘Take another year but this is your last year.’ ”

—————

After the Blazers won the 1992 Memorial Cup, they went young with, Hay says, “I think five 16-year-olds.” He also pointed to a “key trade” that Brown made in acquiring goaltender Steve Passmore from the Victoria Cougars “to stabilize our group.”

Passmore returned as a 20-year-old for 1993-94.

“The team to beat that season was Portland,” Hay says. “They had (Adam) Deadmarsh and (Jason) Wiemer and (Scott) Langkow in goal. They had a good team. Langkow got hurt during the season so we had jumped them in the standings.”

Kamloops and Portland met up in the West Division final, with the Blazers, who had finished seven points ahead of the Winterhawks, holding home-ice advantage.

“Game 1 and 2, we won,” Hay remembers. “Game 3 and 4, they won. Game 5, back here, Kamloops1we won that to go up 3-2. Down in Portland for Game 6, Jarome Iginla, who was 16, got the first goal and then Scott Ferguson scored late in the game and we ended up winning the series. It was something that wasn’t expected.”

The Blazers then took out the Saskatoon Blades in a seven-game championship final.

“We went to Laval and it was like, ‘Boy, it all came together.’ So we unexpectedly won in ’94.”

The following season, as Hay puts it, “We had a really strong team. I think we went wire-to-wire as the No. 1 team in the country.”

In the end, they came up against the Brandon Wheat Kings in the WHL final. With the Blazers the host team for the Memorial Cup, both teams knew they would be advancing. Still, as the series progressed, Hay found himself having to make a key decision.

With the series using a 2-3-2 format, the Wheat Kings won the opener in Kamloops.

“The second game,” Hay explains, “we were down and we make the decision to pull the goalie, Roddie Branch, and we put in Randy Petruk.”

Petruk, a 16-year-old from Cranbrook, had gotten into 27 games as a freshman, going 16-3-4. Still, he was 16 years of age. Branch was 20.

“Petruk won eight straight games after that,” Hay says. “We were down 2-0 going to Brandon. We won all three games in Brandon and came back here to win Game 6 in our building. He won those four games and then he won four games at the Memorial Cup as a 16-year-old.”

That was the last time Hay turned to a 16-year-old goaltender. Still, he says that experience is why he didn’t have any problem turning to 17-year-old Tyson Sexsmith in 2006-07 when he needed a goaltender with the Vancouver Giants the host team for the 2007 Memorial Cup. Hay went to Sexsmith early on, and the kid got into 51 regular-season games and 22 more in the playoffs.

The Giants lost to Willie Desjardins and the Medicine Hat Tigers in seven games in the WHL final that year — “That playoff against Medicine Hat was as good as any playoff I’ve been in,” Hay says — but later beat the Tigers 2-1 in the Memorial Cup final in Vancouver’s Pacific Coliseum.

The Giants had won the 2006 WHL title under Hay, but lost a semifinal game at the Memorial Cup in Moncton.

—————

When Hay ended a three-season professional playing career, he returned to Kamloops and was prepared to work as a firefighter and coach minor hockey.

He also was in on the ground floor with the Kamloops Cowboys, a short-lived senior team that played in a league with the likes of the Quesnel Kangaroos, who featured the legendary Gassoff boys, Prince George Mohawks and North Delta Hurricanes.

Hay’s coaching career began innocuously enough when the Cowboys’ coach skipped a practice.

“One day our coach got mad at our group and didn’t show up,” Hay recalls. “We’re sitting in the dressing room, going, ‘Who wants to run practice?’

“I said, ‘Well, I’ll give it a try,’ and I became kind of the player-coach.”

As he got involved in coaching minor hockey, he worked hard to get his coaching levels. As he says, “They wouldn’t give me a head-coaching job because I didn’t have my levels.”

He got the levels and was quite content coaching minor hockey. Then came the phone call that would change everything. It was the summer of 1985 and Ken Hitchcock was preparing for his second season as the Blazers’ head coach.

“I didn’t know him at all,” Hay says. “He said, ‘Come on down for a coffee. I want to meet you.’ I went down there and by the time I left he offered me a part-time assistant-coaching job.”

Hay’s head was spinning as he went home. He was 31 years of age and knew he wanted to give it a shot.

He remembers going home and saying to his wife, Vicki: “Just let me try this for a year. I can work it around my shifts.”

It was a part-time gig and he wouldn’t be making road trips. At least that was the plan at the start.

“But the more you got into it,” Hay says, “the more you were there all the time. I said, ‘Just let me try it for a year’ and it’s been ever since.”

Of course, if Hay thought he was a coach then, he admits that he quickly underwent an attitude adjustment.

“I remember my first practice with Hitch,” Hay says. “I thought being an ex-pro player, I knew everything. I found out I didn’t know anything.

“He was a student of the game. He had gone to watch the Oilers practice with Glen Sather. He had spent time with Clare Drake in Edmonton. Hitch used to watch Sather with Gretzky, Kurri, Coffey . . .”

Hay spent five years working with Hitchcock, and they made two trips to the Memorial Cup — 1986 in Portland and 1990 in Hamilton.

“That 1990 team . . . it was a good team,” he says. “Lennie Barrie. Dave Chyzowski. We got Clayton Young in a trade from Victoria. He got 100 points. He was our fourth-line centre. We had an awesome team. We had some great teams here.”

It was Hitchcock who pushed Hay towards Hockey Canada. It was Hitchcock who prodded Hay until he got involved in the U-17 program that was in its infancy. Hay was one of the coaches when some B.C. teams gathered at Memorial Arena in Kamloops.

“That was the first year of the program,” Hay says. “Bob Nicholson was the head of B.C. amateur hockey. I can remember we were representing Okanagan and we were playing a Lower Mainland team. The first period was all penalties.

“Bob was there and he said, ‘If you guys can’t get this thing straightened out we might not have this program.’

“It was a startup program; they wanted to identify the best players. It obviously ended up fine and things moved on.”

—————

A lot of ice has been made since Hay got into the coaching game. When he first started coaching, who would have seen cell phones and social media on the horizon?

“The players have changed. The coaches have changed,” Hay says. “At one time you had one coach. Now you have an assistant coach . . . some people have two assistant coaches. We have a couple of part-time guys. . . .  The players have so many resources now . . . video, YouTube.

“At one time we had nothing. Then we had VHS for a long time. My first year in Vancouver we had a computer and I was a little leery about how this thing all worked.”

Hay pauses, and then he chuckles.

“In 1990, Len Barrie had the first cell phone. He was in the back of the bus with this great big cell phone like this,” Hay says, and he holds his hands about a foot apart.”

Yes, even the t-shirts have changed.

“In ’94 in Laval, we had Stanfield underwear that we would write things on with a Sharpie,” Hay says. “Now you get a new t-shirt with something written on it.”

The way Hay sees it, everything has changed.

“The kids have really changed,” he says, but he adds that a lot of that is because “technology has changed. . . . Society has changed.”

He thinks back 15 or 20 years and remembers when coaches and players read The Hockey News on the bus “to find out what was going on” in the NHL and the three major junior leagues.

Hay was the head coach of the Canadian team that played in the 1995 World Junior Championship in Red Deer. He remembers attending a summer session in Red Deer . . .

“The Quebec guys sat over there. The Ontario guys sat over there. The Western Hockey League guys sat over there. Nobody knew each other,” he says. “The only guy they knew was Brett Lindros because he was such a recognizable guy. People didn’t know who Bryan McCabe was. Nobody knew what was happening.”

These days, thanks at least in part to social media, everyone knows everyone and many players are in regular contact with each other.

This, of course, has led to rules regarding the use of phones and social media.

“We have no phones at meals,” Hay says. “When you come in the dressing room, you put your phone away.”

When the Blazers travel to Vancouver, for example, the players have to turn off their phones once they reach Chilliwack.

“You have to explain why you’re doing it,” Hay says. “You’re doing it so they can focus and concentrate.”

A chuckle follows.

“I remember one time when we were playing in Swift Current and staying in Medicine Hat,” he says. “We got back and I was upset after we lost.”

Hay ordered his player to go “straight to your rooms.”

Except that Darcy Tucker chimed in with: “I have to phone my mom and dad.”

So, as Hay recalls, “They all lined up at the pay phone.”

Another pause. Another chuckle. He has asked players what they would rather give up — a hot shower or the cell phone.

“They would all rather shower in cold water than give up their cell phones,” he says with a laugh.

Hay also points out that dealing with cell phones and social media is “part of the discussion” at all levels of hockey, including the World Junior Championship. “How are we going to handle cell phones and computers and things like that? You want the focus to be on the task at hand, but the phone has become such a big part of their lives.”

Helping players learn to deal with social media, as Hay points out, is part of a coach’s responsibility. The WHL has rules regarding the use of social media because, as Hay says, “We don’t want the players embarrassing themselves.”

He adds: “They’re young people. They have to learn the right decision-making. I always tell the players ‘my job is to not only teach you hockey skills, but to teach you life skills.’

“The biggest life skill is making good decisions.”

—————

If Hay has learned one thing in his coaching career, it is that the only constant in hockey is change. That is something that he doesn’t see changing, either.

“The kids are more educated; they’re more aware,” he says. “They’re well coached. They’re probably not as coachable . . . not open to change at times. That’s probably the biggest thing.

“As coaches, we have to change with the times and the players. The players have got to change and adapt, also. Sometimes there’s stubbornness to change on both sides.”

However, as he is quick to point out, it is “the coachable guys who have a chance to become players.”

He quickly names four former WHLers who went on to play in the NHL and in a couple of sentences he explains how they got there. “Chris Murray, Darcy Tucker, Milan Lucic, Brendan Gallagher . . . those guys would come to the rink every day wanting to get better,” Hay says. “They wanted to know, ‘What can you teach me today?’ If they got corrected, they would try to do it (better) and please you. That’s what coachability is all about. They had to work to get where they wanted to get to.”

Of course, nothing is like it used to be. Hockey didn’t use to be all about systems. Oh, sure, coaches worked on defensive zone coverages and such, but . . .

“It wasn’t like it is now; no doubt about it,” Hay says. “Games were like 8-6 and 9-7. There were systems, but not as detailed as they are today and not as structured as they are today. That’s probably the biggest change I’ve seen in my time.”

When Hay left for the first time after the 1994-95 season, he left behind a WHL that, as he puts it, “was still a pretty explosive league with lots of goals.” It’s not like that now and one of the main reasons, he suggests, is that the “coaches are more educated now.”

Hockey coaches, as a rule, love to share. They spend their summers attending coaching clinics, either as presenters or participants. Hay is no exception.

“I learned from Hitch to give back,” Hay says. “Give back to the community that helps you. Every summer I try to either present at a coaches clinic or go to a coaches clinic. It’s important to continue to learn. You pick up one or two things that you think can help you have success and I think that’s important.”

As for the future of the game, he sees hockey “going to more of a development model.” It starts with the increase in the number of coaches being hired in the pro game.

“You look at the (Chicago) Blackhawks and their farm team,” he says. “They had a head coach, an assistant coach . . . they had special assignment coaches. They had a faceoff guy, a goalie guy, a defence guy, a forward guy, a penalty-killer guy. They’re trying to teach their players as much as they can because of the salary cap . . . they have to replace these guys with younger guys.”

The people who run junior teams are paying attention, too. In the case of the Blazers, Hay says they spent the first two days of their training camp on skill development. They brought in Dallas Stars goaltending coach Jeff Reese.

“We also did defencemen development. We did forward development,” Hay says. The focus on skill development has meant one other thing, too.

“You want to get to your group as quick as possible so you can start working with them and start developing them,” he says.

—————

Hay returned to Kamloops as the Blazers’ head coach over the summer of 2014. He had spent the previous 10 years as the head coach of the Vancouver Giants. Ron Toigo, the Giants’ majority owner, let Hay out of the final year of a contract in order to allow him to return to his hometown.

“I had 10 really good years in Vancouver,” Hay says. “The opportunity came probably at the right time for everybody. I didn’t think the opportunity would come, to be able to come back. Things just didn’t match up along the way. When I was looking for a job, the Blazers had a quality coach. When they needed a coach, I had a job.”

Hay seems completely at peace with where he is at this stage of his life. He is 61 now, and he’s back home and surrounded by family.

“It feels different,” he says of being back in Kamloops. “It feels good but it feels different.”

These days, with Hay into his second season in his second stay with his hometown Blazers, he seems really comfortable with his lot in life.

While son Darrell continues to play professionally — he is a defenceman with the Sheffield Steelers of Great Britain’s Elite Ice Hockey League — Hay is in close proximity to his and Vicki’s twin daughters. Angela, who is married to former WHL goaltender Thomas Vicars, lives in Salmon Arm, while Ashly, who was married in July, lives in Kamloops.

“This is home. I was born and raised here. I came back every summer. It’s not like I left Kamloops and never came back. I have always felt that Kamloops is home. I enjoyed my time in Vancouver and the people I met there and the people I worked with there. I just didn’t think the opportunity would ever present itself.”