As of Thursday night, each of the WHL’s 22 teams had a head coach in place for the upcoming season.
The Victoria Royals completed the circle on Thursday when they introduced Dave Lowry as their head coach, replacing Marc Habscheid, who has been bumped upstairs within the franchise’s parent company.
On Wednesday, the Brandon Wheat Kings announced that long-time assistant coach Dwayne Gylywoychuk had been promoted to head coach. Gylywoychuk, who holds the Wheat Kings’ franchise record for most games played, replaces Cory Clouston, who was dropped, despite having a year left on his contract, following the end of last season.
Lowry, 47, spent the last three seasons as an assistant coach with the Calgary Flames. His contract wasn’t renewed following last season as the Flames cleaned out their coaching staff.
Lowry, who spent 19 years playing professionally, began his coaching career with the WHL’s Calgary Hitmen. He signed on as an assistant coach for 2005-06, was promoted to associate coach for 2007-08, and was named head coach the following season. In 2008-09, he guided the Hitmen to a 59-9-4 record. They then swept three playoff series before losing the WHL final in six games to the Kelowna Rockets.
While Habscheid was a defence-first kind of coach, Lowry told reporters: “I like an up-tempo game but obviously will have to assess the personnel to see what style of play is conducive to us winning.”
Habscheid also had served as the club’s general manager. That position was filled July 6 with the hiring of Cam Hope, who said he “didn’t know (Lowry) at all.” Lowry said it was important to him that he come to an organization in which the two positions were split.
“Too much gets missed when those positions are combined,” Lowry told Cleve Dheensaw of the Victoria Times Colonist. “When (I was) told it would be two separate positions, that piqued my interest because I have no interest in doing the GM part of it. My strength is coaching and that’s what I wanted to do.”
As for moving from the NHL to major junior, Lowry said: “The game is the same. The only difference is the pay scale.”
Lowry’s oldest son, Adam, 19, is preparing for his fourth season with the Swift Current Broncos. His NHL rights belong to the Winnipeg Jets. Another son, Joel, is preparing for his sophomore season with the Cornell Big Red. His NHL rights are with the Los Angeles Kings. Joel played two seasons with the BCHL’s Victoria Grizzlies.
Dave Lowry’s first game behind the Royals’ bench will come Aug. 30 when they travel to Kamloops to meet the Blazers in an exhibition game.
The Royals didn’t make any announcements regarding assistant coaches.
Gylywoychuk, meanwhile, is a 39-year-old Winnipegger who played 323 regular-season games with the Wheat Kings. He has been an assistant coach with the Wheat Kings since 2003, working under head coaches Dean Clark, Mike Kelly, Kelly McCrimmon and Clouston.
McCrimmon, the Wheat Kings’ owner and general manager, also announced Darren Ritchie will be back for a sixth season as an assistant coach.
Last week, the Lethbridge Hurricanes announced they had picked up the 2013-14 option on GM/head coach Rich Preston’s contract.
However, there is speculation that Preston may have an opportunity to join the coaching staff of the Stanley Cup-champion Los Angeles Kings. He was an assistant coach under Kings’ head coach Darryl Sutter with the San Jose Sharks and Calgary Flames.
Preston has been with the Hurricanes through three seasons.
A source familiar with Preston and his situation said last night that Preston has an out clause in his new contract that would allow him to leave to accept an offer from the Kings. The source also said he wouldn’t be at all surprised if Preston ended up in L.A.
The Kings are looking to fill a hole created when Jamie Kompon, a six-year assistant, left and signed with the Chicago Blackhawks.
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