By Lanny Stewart
There will be a few new faces in head coaching roles when the curtain is raised for the upcoming Manitoba Junior Hockey League season.
In Winkler, Steve Mullin will take over behind the bench for the Flyers, replacing long-time bench boss Ken Pearson. Mullin, who spent several seasons as the club’s assistant coach, says he’s excited for what will be his first head coaching gig in the MJHL.
“I’m very comfortable and familiar with what the expectations are and how we like to do things around here,” Mullin said. “So that aspect of things is very familiar, so I don’t think there will be too big of a hiccup as far as that’s concerned.”
Mullin, who spent two seasons during his MJHL playing days with Winkler from 2000-2002, says his coaching philosophy is similar to that of his predecessor, however he’s looking forward to bringing his own unique style to the dressing room.
“It’s just how we operate, the way I maybe handle situations in the dressing room or how I approach things. We all have our own style,” he said.
He says the position is his dream job as he grew up an hour away from Winkler.
“I played two years in the organization and I’ve come back to coach here as an assistant and have been around here for a number of years,” he said. “My family is right here, I don’t have to move anywhere. It’s really very little sacrifice I had to make in my personal life to make this dream of becoming a head coach in the MJHL a reality. The hope was to be able to stick around and so I’m more than excited.”
In OCN, the Blizzard have decided to turn to Matt Summers to lead their organization into the future. Summer, an OCN alum, having played with the Blizzard from 2003-2006, says his love for the organization, the community and the people of OCN played a key role in his decision to join the hockey club.
“My time playing for the Blizzard provided me the foundation to play 10 years of professional hockey,” Summer said in a release back in July. “This was only possible from the support and experience I received from my time in OCN.”
Summer, who is from Savage, Minn., spent this past season as the head coach of the Tri City Ice Hawks of the USPHL.
“Team-wise, I feel we’re looking positive and strong going into a new season. I know we have some good returnees that I’ve heard nothing but good things about.”
Meanwhile, in Dauphin, a familiar face returns to the club as Doug Hedley is back for his third stint with the Kings as head coach and GM.
“Dauphin had a young team last year, so we’re expecting a better work ethic, we’re expecting commitment and we’re hoping to be very competitive,” said Hedley, who has amassed a 217-116-17-8 record during his time in Dauphin in years past.
In Selkirk, the interim tag was removed back in April as Nick Lubimiv is preparing for his first full season as head coach and manager of hockey operations for the Steelers.
“I’m extremely excited,” he said. “It’s been a goal of mine since I started coaching 10 years ago to work in this league and I hope to make the most of it.”
Lubimiv, who has been with the Steelers organization for the past three seasons, says he plans on continuing to implement a puck possession style of play to the team.
“When we get the puck, we have to make sure we’re working hard to keep it,” he added.
In Wayway, Taylor Harnett returns for his first full season as well after taking over as Wolverines bench boss and GM near the midway point of last season.
“I’m definitely excited. I think I’m more excited about the community and the surrounding communities that support us,” he said. “The new players that are coming in and are committed to trying to become a Wolverine this season, I’m excited for them because a lot of them are going to experience the new look and the new changes to our staff and to our building. They’re going to experience that first-hand. I’m also excited for the players who were here last year; they get to experience all the positive changes as well.”
The MJHL would like to wish all the coaches luck this upcoming season!