Thursday, June 9, 2011

Blazers add Hunchak as they round out coaching staff

Daily News Sports Editor
On the day when the Kamloops Blazers announced that Dave Hunchak had been added to their coaching staff, he was hard at work.
Hunchak, a WHL head coach for the last four seasons, has joined the Blazers as their associate coach. He will work alongside head coach Guy Charron, who came on board as head coach in November 2009.
The Blazers also added two former players to the coaching staff, with Ed Patterson signing on as an assistant coach and Mike Needham filling the newly created position of skills coach.
On Thursday, Hunchak, the head coach of the Moose Jaw Warriors for the last four seasons, was busy at a project in a building in that city.
“I’ve got drills and stuff going on everywhere here,” said Hunchak, who is in his second summer of working as an electrician. “I took on a job doing an expansion at a building here in Moose Jaw.
“At the end of the hockey season, you’re mentally fried. This is the second summer I’ve done this and it is a total mental refresher.”
Hunchak especially needed a breather after the Warriors chose not to renew his contract following a 40-26-6 season that ended with a six-game first-round loss to the eventual-champion Kootenay Ice.
“I’m not bitter towards the situation, more frustrated,” he explained, “because we were building something and building something real good. I fully expect that team to be an upper-echelon team in the Eastern Conference. The goal would have been 45-plus wins.
“The other thing that’s frustrating is that the two teams that won the WHL championship the last two years (the Calgary Hitmen, in 2010), we’ve been the team that gave those teams the most grief. You ask yourself what happens if you did finish the deal? The bottom line is we didn’t and the result . . .”
The result, of course, is that Hunchak now is with the Blazers.
In talking with the Blazers, Hunchak said he “immediately felt very comfortable with Guy and I believe the combination is going to work out real well.”
“There’s a passion there that’s undeniable and you can see that in Guy,” he added. “There are a lot of good feelings about where the team is going.”
As for being an associate coach after four seasons as the head guy, Hunchak said he isn’t at all into titles.
As he put it, “When it comes to titles, you’re a coach and you coach.”
He did admit, though, that he and his family are looking forward to our mild winters. In fact, climate was an important part of the decision to sign with the Blazers.
He and wife Kim have two children — Alyssa, 12, and Brendan, 8 — and Alyssa has juvenile arthritis.
“That was an important part of our decision,” Hunchak said. “We have to be conscious of that . . . you have to take all factors into consideration.”
Hunchak went 129-124-35 as head coach in Moose Jaw. Before joining the Warriors, Hunchak was an assistant coach for three seasons with the Swift Current Broncos. He also was head coach of the SJHL’s Kindersley Klippers for three seasons, winning two league titles. He was the SJHL’s coach of the year in 2001-02.
Chad Lang, then the Warriors’ general manager, described Hunchak as “one of the most passionate guys in the hockey world,” when he hired him in June 2007.
“He’s got that fire in him, and he’s a great teacher,” said Lang, who now is the GM of the Regina Pats.
Hunchak also worked as the video coach with Canada as it won the 2006 World Junior Championship.
Patterson, a former head coach of the junior B Kamloops Storm, played in the WHL with the Seattle Thunderbirds, Swift Current and the Blazers. He was a member of the Kamloops club that won the 1992 Memorial Cup.
As well as working with the Blazers, Patterson is the head coach of the Kamloops Minor Hockey Association’s peewee Tier 1 team.
Needham played three seasons with the Blazers (1987-90), finishing up by recording 125 points, including 59 goals, in 60 games in 1989-90. He also played for Canada at the 1990 World Junior Championship; Charron was the head coach of the Canadian team. Needham, whose son Matt was the Blazers’ first pick in the 2010 bantam draft, also is the head coach of the bantam AAA team at the Okanagan Hockey Academy in Penticton.
The Blazers also announced that Dan De Palma will return as goaltending coach. He also is head coach of the KMHA’s bantam Tier 1 team, the Jardine’s Blazers.
Contract details, including lengths, weren’t released by the Blazers, who finished 29-37-6 last season and missed the playoffs for only the second time in the franchise’s 30-year history in Kamloops.
All of this firms up a coaching staff that lost its two assistants when the club chose not to renew the contracts of Scott Ferguson and Geoff Smith.
Charron has one year left on his contract.
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