By Derek Holtom
There’s something special about having someone local involved with your junior team when they make a significant impact. That about sums up Cramer Coulthart – both as a player, and now as the governor for the Swan Valley Stampeders.
As a player, Coulthart did everything that was asked of him on the ice, as his 206 penalty minutes in his final two seasons will attest. He was also versatile, as his respectable 22 points in his final year clearly show. When Coulthart was on the ice, you always knew something was going to happen.
But his greatest impact on the Stampeders’ organization may be yet to come, as this summer he joined the off-ice side of the team, stepping into the team governor role. It’s been a long road from lacing up the skates to sitting around a board room for the Stampeders, and it began soon after his junior career had ended.
“After I was done hockey I went to Red River (College in Winnipeg) to take a business course,” said Coulthart. “I always wanted to come back to Swan eventually, but I didn’t know in what capacity.
“When I got to college I wanted to go in my own direction, so I went into financial services and started working with London Life,” he added. “Then my future wife got a job offer with Reimer and Co. as an accountant, so we made the decision to come back.”
Coulthart kept working for London Life from Swan River, though he was eventually offered a position with Cook & Cooke Financial, where he works today.
As his personal life brought him back to the Valley, it seemed inevitable that Coulthart would reconnect with his junior team.
“I was going to as many games as I could, being involved in other community events, and playing senior hockey myself,” he said. “But I was sort of disconnected for a while, after having played for them and then billeting a player. The guys playing now are not my age, so I was not as connected to the team as I once was.”
That soon changed. The Stamps went through seismic changes this off season involving many aspects of the organization – including changes on the board. Coulthart offered to help, and soon found himself in one of the most important positions within the franchise.
“I saw they were having some struggles, and I wanted to be involved in some capacity – I didn’t just want to sell tickets,” he said. “So I decided to put my money where my mouth is.”
As governor, Coulthart has many wide-ranging duties and responsibilities, many of which tie in nicely to his business education and background.
“The governor team position, you kind of take off your team hat,” he said. “It’s more about growing the league. I go to these meetings and we talk about what initiatives are teams doing to grow their presence in the community. What types of different fund-raisers are we doing? What kind of equipment do we have? What are we doing to promote players? What are we doing at the Showcase to attract scouts?”
After disseminating information at the league board level, Coulthart reports back to the Stampeder board, where they can hopefully use that information to better improve the local team.
“It’s been really interesting, and not what I really expected,” said Coulthart. “But I’m having a lot of fun with it, and there are some great people involved. I’m also surprised at the great working relationship between teams. Everyone is there for one reason – to grow the league.”
And as a former player, Coulthart does have some extra insight on what can be done to improve the league from a player’s perspective, though he admits what players are looking for is ever-evolving.
“I have some ideas about recruiting, and what players are looking for, but hockey has already changed from when I was a player,” he said. “For the Stampeders, we’re trying to grow the program to make it attractive. Like how do we get a player who lives between, say, Yorkton and Swan River to choose here, when Yorkton is a larger centre that had a few more wins and has won a championship before?”
The former player also had his eyes opened a bit when he got a look at the books and saw how much it takes to operate a junior A franchise.
“Those are things that I was completely blind to as a player – things I probably took for granted, quite honestly,” he said. “It’s been an eye-opening experience, but a good one for sure.”
So now that he’s in the ‘hot seat’ so to speak, Coulthart is more convinced than ever about the worth of a junior team to their home community. And not just from a dollars and cents perspective (though that is important).
“There are huge economic benefits – whether it’s ice rental, having 25 guys in town that minor hockey players can look up to,” he said. “We also play 30 home games, which mean teams travelling through here are using our hotels and restaurants.
“The economic benefit is huge, but there’s also the younger kids coming up who have players to look up to,” added Coulthart. “When I was nine years old and the Stampeders would come to our school, I just thought that was the greatest thing ever. It made me want to be a Stampeder, and luckily I achieved it.”
And while he is only too happy to lend a hand to the Stampeders, Coulthart’s focus is most definitely divided these days – for the best reason ever.
“We have a one-and-a-half-year-old now, so we’re a family of three, and that’s been a big transition,” said Coulthart. “It’s a big change in our life, but it’s for the better, and we’re really enjoying it.”