The Neepawa Natives have a new head coach, one they hope will continue the work done by his predecessor to get them back into the MJHL playoffs.
Jim Fuyarchuk was recently announced as the new head coach of the Natives, and joins the team after coaching in Europe last year. For Fuyarchuk, taking the job with the Natives was a chance to get back to his roots in Canada and Manitoba.
“As a family, we consider Manitoba to be home, and we wanted to get a little more settled here,” said Fuyarchuk. “I’m familiar with the league, having coached in Wayway, and I thought this would be a great opportunity.”
Fuyarchuk joins the Natives after previously coaching the Miskolci Jegesmedvek Under 18 team in Hungary, and has extensive coaching experience from around the world – including a stint as the Under 18 national coach in Australia and some time coaching in Great Britain. He’s also a former head coach of the Brandon Bobcats of the CIS.
Fuyarchuk says every coaching job is an opportunity to grow, and he plans to bring that knowledge to the Natives this year.
“Whatever job you take, wherever it might be, you’re always going to learn something, working with different people and players,” said Fuyarchuk. “Whether it’s in Europe or North America, there’s always something to learn, and that’s part of the experience.”
The Natives were the only MJHL team to not make the playoffs, though they were in the hunt for a spot most of the year. Fuyarchuk said there is a lot of potential with this team for the coming year.
“From what I gather, this is a pretty young, good team coming back,” he said. “There are 17 players who could return, so there’s a good core to work with, and I understand some of the younger players coming up are very talented and of good character.
“It all starts from the start of the season – what you teach, how you teach – and that everyone buys in,” added Fuyarchuk. “When it comes down to it there’s no substitute for hard work, and that’s what we want to establish from the beginning.”
Fuyarchuk has a busy three months ahead of him as training camps are set to open in late August. And his work starts almost immediately.
“First and foremost, I intend to contact the majority of the players, if not all of them, and if possible, face-to-face,” he said. “And in July there is a top 50 prospects camps in Brandon, and that will be a really great opportunity to meet the players face-to-face and assess the talent they have.
“So we’ll be assessing our talent and developing a game plan,” he added.