Okay, it might be a real stretch to say that if you cut Steve Mullin, he would bleed Winkler Flyer orange, but hey, it wouldn’t be surprising.
You see, the first-year Winkler Flyers’ head coach has literally grown up around the Flyers’ organization: he played two seasons with the club (in his last year he was an assistant captain); was later hired on as an assistant coach (a stint he held for six seasons), and just this past summer he was named head coach when Ken Pearson decided to dedicate all his energies to his GM role.
“There’s definitely been a transition for me and the players,” Mullin said. “The role of an assistant coach is much different than that of head coach. Often times you’ll talk to them about decisions made by the head coach.”
“The role of head coach has been different, with some difficult decisions to make at times. I try to be honest and upfront with the guys. Communication is very important. But we’re now definitely into a routine.”
A successful routine which resulted in the Flyers’ going on a five-game winning streak. Currently, Flyers are sitting comfortably in the middle of the pack in the 11-team MJHL standings. But as Mullin knows, the season is a 60-game marathon with many ups, and downs.
Mullin, 35, hails from Cartwright and came to the Flyers in 2000-01. He was an all-star defenceman for the Flyers in 2002 and was named the MJHL’s Top Defenceman during his final season as a Flyer. He earned a scholarship to the University of Maine where he played four seasons. Mullin and the Black Bears went to the NCAA Frozen Four Tournament all four seasons.
A natural leader, he was an assistant captain with both the Flyers and the Black Bears. He went pro following university, playing one season with the Texas Wildcatters of the ECHL. He also captained the Morden Redskins to the SEMHL championship in 2013-2014. Off the ice, he’s a husband and father to two children.
Mullin’s hockey pedigree was impressive to say the least. Which is why Ken Pearson, who can spot talent a mile away, hired him as an assistant coach seven years ago. And when Pearson decided to step off the bench, he only had to look as far as his former assistant coach/player.
“Ken and I know each other pretty well,” Mullin said with a laugh. “As a player, he put players in a position to do well and succeed. I learned a lot from Ken. We talk several times a day. I’ll also look to him for advice and help on things.”
By his own admission, Mullin didn’t come in making sweeping changes. But, he does admit to bringing his own touch to the on-ice strategies. He also admits it’s been a bit of an eye-opening experience running four lines (12 players), compared to his former duties of D-coach, now held by Rylan Price.
“As a former defenceman, running the D-side was an easy transition,” Mullin said. “I would watch and then quickly pass on what I saw to the guys (defencemen). Now, with four lines it’s definitely different for me.”
What’s not different are the expectations placed on anyone coaching the Flyers: making the playoffs and going deep. And as Mullin says, he’s excited about the future.