Thursday, August 18, 2011

Hunchak eager for change, challenge

Daily News Sports Editor
Dave Hunchak realized the magnitude of what he had done as he and his family were moving into their new home in Aberdeen.
As things were being unloaded, Hunchak noticed a neighbour checking out the snowblower.
“Yeah,” Hunchak, the new associate coach with the WHL’s Kamloops Blazers, said with a chuckle on Thursday. “He told me not many people here have those things.”
Hunchak arrived in Kamloops having spent the last four seasons as head coach of the WHL’s Moose Jaw Warriors. He was an assistant coach with the Swift Current Broncos for three seasons before that, and was the general manager and head coach of the SJHL’s Kindersley Klippers prior to that.
It’s safe to say that the snowblower is well used.
“We’ve been in Saskatchewan our whole lives,” he said of wife Kim and children Alyssa and Brendan. “There are challenges but, as a hockey friend told me, ‘You have chosen this so get out and experience the life of hockey. Go see things.’
“Last weekend I was able to take my family to the Seattle Fish Market. It’s neat for us to be able to see different things.”
There is no fish market at Buffalo Pound Lake near Moose Jaw. But Hunchak’s time for touring around with his family is almost over as the Blazers open training camp a week from today.
Players will register for training camp on Thursday, with rookie camp running Aug. 26 and Aug. 27. The three-day main camp will begin Aug. 28 and end with an intrasquad game on Aug. 30.
Hunchak got his feet wet working at the Blazers Hockey School last week, and then ran his first practice, albeit an unofficial one, for about 10 players on Wednesday.
“It’s an exciting time. The kids are in town. The hockey school was tremendous,” he said. “But it’s been a long summer . . . for the Blazers and for myself personally.”
In other words, it’s time for hockey.
Last season, while the Blazers were going 29-37-6 and missing the playoffs, Hunchak was guiding the Warriors to a 40-26-6 record. They then gave the eventual-champion Kootenay Ice the toughest battle it would face in the playoffs before bowing out in six games.
Shortly thereafter, Hunchak was informed that his contract wasn't going to be renewed — despite the 40 victories and despite the franchise being on the eve of moving into a new facility.
It didn’t take Hunchak long to find work. In fact, he is believed to have taken the Blazers’ offer while also having other potential jobs on the table.
Hunchak will work alongside head coach Guy Charron, with the two of them figuring out their specific roles as they move along.
“We have spent a lot of time together, both in general discussions and in meetings,” Hunchak said. “I need to figure out what I need to do to best augment what Guy does. He has a lot of strengths . . . my job will be to figure out his weaknesses and help him. It works the other way, too; he will have to work to my weaknesses.”
Charron was involved in the interview and selection process when Hunchak was hired. At the end of the day, Charron said he felt Hunchak “was the best man for the job.”
And now that Hunchak has that job he is looking forward to the change. A career coach, he has been going head-to-head with the likes of Lorne Molleken (Saskatoon Blades) and Kelly McCrimmon (Brandon Wheat Kings) seemingly forever. Which means Hunchak really is anxious to get a close-up look at the coaches in the B.C. Division — Dean Clark (Prince George Cougars), Marc Habscheid (Victoria Royals), Don Hay (Vancouver Giants) and Ryan Huska of the Kelowna Rockets — all of whom are well-respected and experienced.
Hunchak also is excited about working in the Western Conference.
“The style is different. There’s a more wide-open style out here,” he said. “I think there’s a higher pace out here than in the East. The buildings . . . everything is different.”
Including the need for a snowblower.
JUST NOTES: F Tim Bozon, the Blazers’ lone selection in the CHL’s 2011 import draft, arrived in Kamloops on Thursday evening. He took the Milan-Frankfurt-Vancouver-Kamloops route. . . . Bozon, who is Swiss, will be one of two imports on the ice when camp opens. The other will be sophomore D Marek Hrbas, 18, who was acquired prior to the import draft from the Edmonton Oil Kings. . . . The Blazers play their first exhibition game on Sept. 2 when the Victoria Royals are at Interior Savings Centre.
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