2017-18 VIC­TO­RIA ROY­ALS PRE­VIEW

Times Colonist - - Front Page - CLEVE DHEENSAW

New head coach Dan Price runs prac­tice with the Vic­to­ria Roy­als at Save-on-Foods Me­mo­rial Cen­tre on Thurs­day. Price has more con­nec­tions to the Vic­to­ria Roy­als than many peo­ple re­al­ize. He was an as­sis­tant coach with the team even be­fore they were the Roy­als — back then, they were the Chilli­wack Bru­ins. He re­turned to the team last year as as­sis­tant coach, and when for­mer head coach Dave Lowry de­camped to the NHL, Price was the first choice to fill the role. Re­porter Cleve Dheensaw talks to Price and looks at what’s ahead for this year’s team,

The new head coach of the Vic­to­ria Roy­als is a man for all sea­sons and all set­tings.

Dan Price is a lawyer by train­ing, West­ern Hockey League coach by vo­ca­tion and surfer by in­cli­na­tion and spirit. His favourite film is

A River Runs Through It, “be­cause it’s about fam­ily, friends and how they re­late.” The band that has touched him the most is the Trag­i­cally Hip.

He is as com­fort­able in his home prov­ince of Al­berta as he is in a wet­suit with a board un­der his arm in Tofino: “I love it all, in­clud­ing the two-step and the [Calgary] Stam­pede. My tastes are di­verse. I love run­ning, hik­ing, surf­ing and golf, so the Is­land is also a per­fect place for me.”

Price grad­u­ated from the Univer­sity of Saskatchewan law school in 2001, was called to the bar in Al­berta in 2002, and be­gan prac­tis­ing.

“I never thought I would leave the law,” said Price, a sin­gle 42year-old from St. Al­bert.

But he was al­ways an ath­lete, and that sport­ing drive never left him.

He was a goal­tender in his play­ing days with the Trail Smoke Eaters of the B.C. Hockey League and Fort St. John Huskies of the Rocky Moun­tain Ju­nior League be­fore play­ing in U Sports for the Univer­sity Regina Cougars from 1995 to 1998.

“I loved the com­pe­ti­tion, strat­egy and prepa­ra­tion in­volved with be­ing a lawyer,” said Price.

“It hit me one day that I liked that about the court­room be­cause I liked that about hockey. And I de­cided I en­joyed it more in an ath­letic con­text than I did in a court­room con­text. I liked the law, but I loved hockey. If you can have a ca­reer you love, it’s bet­ter than hav­ing a ca­reer you like.”

Price turned his back on what looked to be the start of a promis­ing and sta­ble law ca­reer as a civil lit­i­ga­tor in Calgary and turned to the most un­sta­ble and itin­er­ant pro­fes­sion there is — coach­ing sports for a liv­ing, in which you are only as good as your last win­ning sea­son.

Asked if he brings a lawyer’s mind to coach­ing, Price an­swered: “I hope so, be­cause both are about plan­ning, prepa­ra­tion, or­ga­ni­za­tion and ar­tic­u­lat­ing an idea clearly. When you are ar­gu­ing be­fore a judge, you have to spot the is­sue, take all the clut­ter and noise away from around it, and pare it down to that is­sue. Coach­ing is much the same.”

Price’s coach­ing jour­ney be­gan where it has led him back to now. Price has a deeper con­nec­tion to the Roy­als fran­chise than most fans re­al­ize. He was an as­sis­tant coach un­der Jim Hiller for the first three sea­sons in fran­chise his­tory, af­ter it was founded in 2006, and when it was lo­cated in Chilli­wack and known as the Bru­ins. Hiller (now as­sis­tant coach in the NHL with the Toronto Maple Leafs) and equip­ment man­ager Matt Auer­bach had come across to Chilli­wack from the Al­berni Val­ley Bull­dogs of the B.C. Hockey League. They were all start­ing out to­gether in the Fraser Val­ley on a new project — Hiller, Auer­bach, Price and the Bru­ins.

The fran­chise moved to the Is­land and be­came the Vic­to­ria Roy­als in 2011-12 af­ter five sea­sons op­er­at­ing in Chilli­wack. Com­ing back across the strait with the Bru­ins and soon-to-be Roy­als was Auer­bach. That would prove a key con­nec­tion at the be­gin­ning of last sea­son when Roy­als gen­eral man­ager Cameron Hope was look­ing for some­one to vouch for Price to fill an open­ing on the Roy­als bench as as­sis­tant coach. Price was in U Sports at the time with the Univer­sity of Toronto Var­sity Blues and jumped at the chance to ap­ply for the Roy­als as­sis­tant coach job that he even­tu­ally landed.

“In many ways, I’ve come full cir­cle back to this fran­chise,” said Price.

“I owe a huge debt of grat­i­tude to Matty [Auer­bach] for mak­ing the sug­ges­tion and telling [Hope] that the Roy­als can have trust in me,” Price said.

So now he takes over the main Roy­als bench role from Dave Lowry, who be­came as­sis­tant coach of the Los An­ge­les Kings of the Na­tional Hockey League, af­ter guid­ing the Roy­als to a reg­u­larsea­son over­all record of 199-11222 in his five years on the Vic­to­ria bench as the win­ningest coach in fran­chise his­tory.

Price served last sea­son as Lowry’s as­sis­tant and it was enough to make a last­ing im­pact: “Dave and I are dif­fer­ent in style, but I learned so much from him. Dave is very in­tense and leads a whole group with his pres­ence. That is an at­tribute unique to him. That is not my per­son­al­ity as much. I have to work harder at in­di­vid­ual con­nec­tions and to break things down and ex­plain them to play­ers.”

But in strat­egy, both Price and Lowry are of one mind.

“In terms of on-ice fun­da­men­tals, we don’t dif­fer much,” Price said. There is such a thing as Roy­als hockey, he said.

“You are still go­ing to see a Roy­als team that plays fast in ev­ery di­rec­tion, which is what [Lowry] preached. We are go­ing to be­lieve in our fit­ness and con­di­tion­ing and play fast and pres­sure op­po­nents,” said Price.

“I am very sim­i­lar to Dave in that re­gard. The pace of play will be rapid and the tempo high. We will at­tack de­fen­sively, as well as of­fen­sively.”

There is an­other thing Price took away from watch­ing Lowry last sea­son: “Dave be­lieves in trust and loy­alty. He is a tremen­dously loyal per­son to his play­ers and staff and pro­tects his team. That stayed with me.”

That the Roy­als stayed in­house, opt­ing for con­ti­nu­ity in se­lect­ing their new head coach, speaks vol­umes.

“I was tremen­dously grate­ful to be con­sid­ered for the role. This or­ga­ni­za­tion has em­pow­ered me,” Price said.

Price has also served two sea­sons as as­sis­tant coach of the TriCity Amer­i­cans of the WHL from 2012-14 and was a scout for the WHL’s Regina Pats. He has in­ter­na­tional ex­pe­ri­ence as as­sis­tant coach with sil­ver-medal­list Team Pa­cific at the 2009 World U-17 Hockey Chal­lenge. Price did dou­ble duty as head coach and gen­eral man­ager of the Drumheller Dragons of the Al­berta Ju­nior Hockey League from 2009 to 2012.

Price, how­ever, has no WHL head-coach­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. But that did not de­ter Hope.

“It kept com­ing back to Price … the can­di­date that fit best was right un­der our nose,” said Hope, when he made the an­nounce­ment in June.

“He es­sen­tially had a year-long au­di­tion and ticked all the right boxes for us. You of­ten hear that peo­ple are over­due. That can be said for Dan Price.”

The choice of Price as his suc­ces­sor in Vic­to­ria came with Lowry’s bless­ing.

“The biggest change is that you go from be­ing an as­sis­tant coach, with a par­tic­u­lar area of re­spon­si­bil­ity and nar­row fo­cus, to mov­ing up to head coach and hav­ing to see ev­ery­thing for the whole group through a big-pic­ture lens,” said Price.

Price was win­less as a head coach at 0-2-1 when Lowry missed three games due to be­ing quar­an­tined with the mumps last sea­son. Price’s first crack at his first WHL reg­u­lar-sea­son vic­tory as head coach comes Fri­day night when the Roy­als open the 2017-18 sea­son against the Van­cou­ver Giants at Save-on-Foods Me­mo­rial Cen­tre.

Price is the third head coach of the Roy­als since the fran­chise has been on the Is­land. Marc Hab­scheid was the first bench boss in Vic­to­ria, a holdover from Chilli­wack days, and went 24-41-7 in 2011-12 be­fore los­ing in the first round of the play­offs to Kamloops. Hab­scheid was re­placed the next sea­son by Lowry, who not only left Vic­to­ria af­ter five sea­sons as the all-time win­ningest coach in fran­chise his­tory, but was twice named WHL coach of the year. The Roy­als never missed the play­offs un­der Lowry, although they never pro­gressed past the sec­ond round. He was also as­sis­tant coach, win­ning gold, and head coach, plac­ing sixth, with Canada’s na­tional ju­nior team dur­ing his ten­ure with the Roy­als.

“[Lowry] is highly in­tel­li­gent with a so­phis­ti­cated sense of hu­mour,” said Price.

“From him I learned to value prepa­ra­tion, or­ga­ni­za­tion, re­la­tion­ships and about trust and mu­tual re­spect.”

Soft-spo­ken and an­a­lyt­i­cal, Price is a big be­liever in uti­liz­ing all the modern tech­nol­ogy avail­able to coaches.

“I love video anal­y­sis. It is ex­tremely valu­able,” he said.

“Phys­i­o­log­i­cal tech­nol­ogy is also a big as­set. Tech­nol­ogy is a huge as­set as a whole, as long as it is work­ing for you, and you not work­ing for it. It can create clut­ter if you don’t pare out all its ex­tra­ne­ous el­e­ments and only con­vey the most im­por­tant in­for­ma­tion to a player or to the team. Tech­nol­ogy must be clean and clear.”

Doug Bodger from Che­mai­nus, who played in more than 1,000 NHL games, will go from be­ing a Roy­als part-time as­sis­tant coach last sea­son to full-time as­sis­tant coach un­der Price.

Bodger is self-de­scribed old school, but look­ing for­ward to the new jour­ney he and Price have em­barked on with the rest of the Roy­als coach­ing staff.

“It’s dif­fer­ent than the old days. High tech is the way to go now,” said Bodger.

“[Price’s] mind is work­ing all the time. He cares about, stud­ies and tracks the game. He takes in ev­ery­thing.”

But Price is far from a hockey tech­no­crat.

“Dan cares about the play­ers and the game and is ded­i­cated to what he’s do­ing,” added Bodger, who played for the Pitts­burgh Pen­guins, Buf­falo Sabres, San Jose Sharks, New Jersey Devils, Los An­ge­les Kings and Van­cou­ver Canucks.

“And I’ve learned a few things about the game in my NHL play­ing ca­reer, and there are lit­tle things I can see. We are go­ing to learn off each other.”

Vic­to­ria Roy­als warm up at Save-on-Foods Me­mo­rial Cen­tre. They open their sev­enth WHL sea­son at home on Fri­day un­der new coach Dan Price. Meet the coach and play­ers, D1

DAR­REN STONE, TIMES COLONIST

New Vic­to­ria Roy­als head coach Dan Price runs prac­tice at Save-on-Foods Me­mo­rial Cen­tre on Thurs­day. The team’s first home game is Fri­day night.

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