Drumheller Dragons head coach re­flects on sea­son

The Drumheller Mail - - SPORTS - Terri Hux­ley

Q How would you sum up the sea­son as a whole? “It was a good suc­cess. The first year tran­si­tion­ing into a new community, a whole new staff, the own­er­ship group, the man­age­ment com­mit­tee, I think ev­ery­body clearly Num­ber one is pas­sion­ate about the community first and fore­most and are ex­tremely pas­sion­ate about hav­ing the Drumheller Dragons in the community that was re­ally ev­i­dent in the fi­nal game of the year when there was 1400 peo­ple in at­ten­dance watch­ing and sup­port­ing. It’s a hockey town with an ab­so­lutely fan­tas­tic fa­cil­ity and I’m re­ally ex­cited into tran­si­tion­ing into next sea­son now.”

Q What were some of the high­lights for you?

The play­ers first and fore­most, just a tremen­dous group of young men. They are very com­mit­ted and I think the fans would have seen that with their ef­forts on the ice. They’re a joy to be around and cer­tainly go­ing to miss hav­ing them around the rink and the community over the sum­mer but def­i­nitely ex­cited to get back to work with them. I thought just the tran­si­tion into Drumheller it­self and hav­ing the whole cul­ture cen­tered around be­ing in the Val­ley is unique and some­thing other teams can’t of­fer in their pro­grams. I’ll never for­get ex­er­cis­ing and do­ing our fit­ness in the hills with the play­ers and watch­ing our poor as­sis­tant coach try to keep up. He’s in tremen­dous con­di­tion and he’s an ath­lete but just to run the hills is some­thing new for all th­ese guys in­clud­ing the play­ers. The whole team of peo­ple who are in­volved with the hockey team from the man­age­ment com­mit­tee to the bil­lets and to the spon­sors – it very much is a fam­ily and peo­ple in­vest in this not as a job but as some­thing that they would con­nect as closely as be­ing a fam­ily mem­ber and it was al­ways re­ceived that way so just be­ing in that en­vi­ron­ment makes your ex­pe­ri­ence that much bet­ter.

Q What was the fun­ni­est thing to hap­pen dur­ing the sea­son?

I don’t know if the fans would have no­ticed this but for what­ever rea­son our play­ers would al­ways toepick on the ice. We would ac­tu­ally cap­ture 5 or 6 guys that would be just skat­ing with no­body around him and ab­so­lutely fall flat on their face whether it was games or prac­tices or any­thing and it was funny but then it al­most be­came an­noy­ing and it was just the weird­est thing I have ever seen. It car­ried on a bit of its own iden­tity by the end of the year. You couldn’t help but no­tice it so that was a funny mo­ment for us but then I think the other one for me was when we pedal biked in the hills and one of our play­ers front tire fell off and he went over the han­dle­bars. He wasn’t hurt thank good­ness but cer­tainly af­ter we found out he wasn’t hurt it cre­ated a lot of chuck­les. I think it’s one of those things you have to have time to think about but cer­tainly there is go­ing to be a lot of mo­ments that we can re­flect on and have a good laugh about.

Q What were some low­lights of the sea­son?

I never re­fer to them as low­lights. I think they are op­por­tu­ni­ties to learn from and get bet­ter and I can’t re­ally point any­thing be­ing that it was our first year to­gether as a fam­ily and bring­ing this team to­gether and im­ple­ment­ing my own phi­los­o­phy’s and how we want to play and con­duct our­selves. Ob­vi­ously the low­est light is shak­ing hands and say­ing good­bye to the kids like they bat­tled so hard and they all be­lieved in the process and each other and to lose out in game 6 to the Brooks Ban­dits of all teams, I wouldn’t say it’s a low light but cer­tainly it’s just time to say good­bye and you never want to say do that.

Q Is there any­thing you would have done dif­fer­ently?

There is al­ways things that you are go­ing to do dif­fer­ently and I think that is what the process of de­vel­op­ment is all about. So I don’t think we would nec­es­sar­ily change any­thing as far as the course but we are go­ing to make ad­just­ments mov­ing for­ward and we are go­ing to seek im­prove­ments in how we do things and it’s all about learn­ing and find­ing ways to get bet­ter. I think if you look at things and start to dwell on them it’s a re­flec­tion of how you are go­ing to be mov­ing for­ward too so I wouldn’t change a thing to be hon­est with you. We learned a lot this year about each other and when you have your exit in­ter­views and ev­ery­one’s got that same en­thu­si­asm and pas­sion when we talk about next sea­son then you know you are do­ing some­thing right.

Q Why did you de­cide to be­come coach for the Dragons this sea­son?

Op­por­tu­nity first and fore­most. I knew they were go­ing through a coach­ing change and when I think about the Drumheller Dragons my im­pres­sion of them as a coach on the other bench when I was with the Olds Griz­zlys was that I al­ways loved com­ing here. It was such an en­thu­si­as­tic at­mos­phere and the peo­ple were so en­gaged right from the own­er­ship. The owner and the gen­eral man­ager were sell­ing 50/50’s in the stands and you don’t al­ways see that. Ev­ery­body was will­ing to chip in and be apart of the process and it hasn’t changed one bit so I love the small town at­mos­phere. I grew up in this Val­ley, not par­tic­u­larly Drumheller but the Red Deer River Val­ley north of Duchess, Al­berta, so I’m very fa­mil­iar with the coulees and it just feels like home. It was a great first year and I’m look­ing for­ward to get­ting my fam­ily here.

Q Start­ing last fall when you picked up this team, what were you ex­pect­ing and what were you sur­prised by?

I think I came in com­pletely open to what­ever. I was for­tu­nate when we started talk­ing about this po­si­tion be­cause they were still play­ing so I had an op­por­tu­nity to watch them play and they were a re­ally young hockey team. They com­mit­ted to build­ing the pro­gram that way so I was some­what fa­mil­iar with all the play­ers and got to know them well over the sum­mer. Like any Ju­nior Hockey sea­son you are go­ing to be thrown curve balls, but for the most part we kept our ros­ter con­sis­tent through­out the sea­son and ba­si­cally there one more year ex­pe­ri­enced and you are go­ing to get that ex­pe­ri­ence and ap­ply it to the re­sults and th­ese kids put in the work and earned bet­ter re­sults. Next year should be no dif­fer­ent.

Q A lot of play­ers com­ing up will be 20 next year. With AJHL’s restric­tions lim­it­ing 20-year-olds to 6 on a ros­ter, will this be a hard de­ci­sion come next sea­son?

I think that when you are pre­pared, de­ci­sions get a lot tougher and I think a lot of work we did this year is go­ing to pre­pare us for our de­ci­sions we have to make. Ob­vi­ously we can’t bring back nine 20-yearolds into the pro­gram so we are go­ing to eval­u­ate based on what the long term goals are for the or­ga­ni­za­tion and make de­ci­sions that are go­ing to al­low us to pur­sue what Mis­sion 6 is for us. What makes it hard is be­cause you are at­tached to all th­ese young men and they all de­serve to play at this level and they all will play at this level it’s just un­for­tu­nate that not all of them will be play­ing here. They un­der­stand that and the busi­ness side of how the Ju­nior A hockey ranks work. It’s hard in a sense that you’ve grown at­tach­ment with the kids and you treat them like your own sons but I think be­ing in the busi­ness for as long as I have, you are able to sep­a­rate that and make the hard de­ci­sions. Prepa­ra­tion is ev­ery­thing. We col­lect a lot of in­for­ma­tion and now its go­ing back to the books and putting that on pa­per and mak­ing de­ci­sions mov­ing for­ward.

Q How do you think the play­ers worked as a team?

There was a team here be­fore I got here first and fore­most like the re­turn­ing nu­cleus of play­ers that re­flected Dragons hockey did so ev­ery sin­gle day this year. The thing that I can be most ap­pre­cia­tive of from those young men is that they em­braced the philoso­phies that we wanted to add to the cur­rent iden­tity. They ran with it, they re­ally did. We had our mo­ments through­out the year whether it was ques­tions and maybe some un­cer­tainty about the di­rec­tion we were go­ing but they stuck with it and you re­ally started see­ing things come to the light in the play­offs and the last month and a half of the reg­u­lar sea­son. That’s promis­ing mov­ing for­ward be­cause if there is one thing that is truly the strength of this pro­gram, it was the co­ma­raderie that was de­vel­oped in that dress­ing room. Th­ese guys loved each other like brothers.

Q Will any of them be mov­ing up to col­lege level or WHL next year?

Ob­vi­ously we would have liked to have seen more play­ers grad­u­ate on to col­lege hockey and earn schol­ar­ships through their play here but now go­ing back to the draw­ing board. It’s ‘ Well what can we do bet­ter?’ and ‘How can we max­i­mize our ef­forts to see that hap­pen­ing for our play­ers?’ and that’s why we are here. It is all about Mis­sion 6 and we only have one player that has se­cured a schol­ar­ship up to this point in time. There’s go­ing to be more over the sum­mer here but cer­tainly that is what we are about and we want to make sure that we’re giv­ing more play­ers that op­por­tu­nity. There’s a whole list of cri­te­ria that you have to meet to be able to achieve that kind of suc­cess. The other thing is that you have to be a good hockey player. You have to have a char­ac­ter­is­tic or trait about your game that is an at­trac­tive qual­ity to an NCAA re­cruit­ing coach and all of our play­ers have those qual­i­ties about them. I think those are the two things and then you got to be a good per­son. If you are will­ing to put in the work and you be­lieve in what you are do­ing and you stay the course to what your ac­tions are bring­ing about then you are go­ing to have suc­cess do­ing that. Aca­demics, ath­letic abil­ity and some­times just a lit­tle bit of luck works out for ev­ery­one as well. We have two 20-year-olds that will be mov­ing on to col­lege hockey next year.

mailphoto by Terri Hux­ley

Drumheller Dragons Head Coach Kevin Has­sel­berg smiles on Thurs­day, March 29. Has­sel­berg has coached for nu­mer­ous years with his first year coach­ing the Dragons now un­der his belt.

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