Icedogs’ new coach is not who we were expecting
“We’ve got a long ways (to go),” says new Slave Lake Icedogs’ coach Joey McEwan.
That was his answer to a question about his impression after the junior squad’s first skate, on Sept. 14.
On the other hand, “we have a lot to work with here.”
The dressing room was packed. It’s hard to imagine another body or two finding room in there, but a lot could happen over the next two or three weeks of training camp. The Icedogs are due to play their first league game on Oct. 2.
But back to McEwan. He is a last-minute replacement for the guy who was expected to coach the Icedogs this year. That was William von Gottsche of Sweden, who appeared in a feature story in The Leader just a couple of weeks ago. According to Icedogs’ GM Lauren Barr, von Gottsche came down with a case of COVID-19 – or what he thinks might be the virus – and changed his mind about coming to Canada. Having met McEwan at a hockey camp in Kelowna this past summer, she says she offered him the job.
McEwan, a native of Terrace B.C., says he had been planning to help coach the Fernie Ghostriders of the Kootenay League this season, but liked the Slave Lake job better.
“It’s a step up,” he says. “The GMHL is an amazing league.”
McEwan played junior hockey in several ‘A’ leagues, including for Merritt in the BC league and OCN and Beausejour in the Manitoba League. He also played a couple of stints of college hockey in the U.S.
Helping McEwan this year will be local assistant coaches Tyson Price and Travis Wakefield, who played for the Icedogs last year. Serving as an advisor to the team is former NHLer Kevin McLelland.
The Icedogs practice from 2 p.m. to 3:30 p.m., Monday through Thurs.. McEwan says he welcomes people to come and watch. In fact he is keen on making connections in the community and will be encouraging his players to get involved in minor hockey, as well as going to school or finding jobs.
“It’s about creating community leaders,” he says.
One thing McEwan would like to do is encourage local players to consider the Icedogs as an option. That will take some work, as not any of last year’s Midgets have shown an interest in trying out for the team. That may have something to do with the cost in the ‘pay-to-play’ system.That’s only one of the challenges of creating a successful junior program.
“I’m up for it!” he says.
Other good news from the Icedogs camp is billet homes were found for all the players coming in from out of town – and not a moment too soon. McEwan says all the credit there goes to Barr, plus recently announced Icedogs’ billet coordinator Paula Read.