Earlier this week, Coach/GM of the Bonnyville Pontiacs, Rick Swan, was named Coach of Canada West in the World Junior A Challenge this December in Bonnyville.
“It’s an honour, humbling and feeling of appreciation that Hockey Canada and the Canadian Junior Hockey League would want the Head Coach of the Bonnyville Pontiacs to lead that group this year,” said Swan. “It’s something that’s tremendously overwhelming sometimes, knowing you’re the guy that they want to coach this year.”
Swan was an assistant coach last year at the World Junior A’s and won gold in the process. Not only did that success prepare him for the role, but his experience as a video coach in 2016 gives him insight on how to manage a team coming off a championship.
“You can’t do the exact same thing, just because it worked the year before. There’s different players involved, there’s different dynamics, and staff. There’s different teams that you’re going to be facing. That’s where you need to be uber prepared and that starts now, in the summer.”
The Team Canada West development camp will invite around 60 players to tryout for the team. Swan and his staff will narrow the team to the top 22.
Going through that process builds trust in the coaching staff and puts a lot of pressure on his shoulders, especially when players will have to change their role from their club team to one they might not be used to.
“Ultimately, the pressure’s on you. You’re looking those kids in the eyes and saying, ‘Sorry you didn’t make our 22.’ Or you’re demanding from kids to do something that they’ve never done before.
“I love that role and it’s part of the process to be experienced in a league that’s one of the very best in Canadian junior hockey, that’s the Alberta Junior Hockey League. As well as challenging yourself as a coach, being there, being an everyday learner.”
Swan will be working extra hard this season with these duties on the world stage. However, it does not detract from his primary coaching and managing duties with the Pontiacs.
He believes the team they’ve assembled is capable of winning a lot of games this season.
Through shrewd deals done a year and more ago with an eye to the future, Swan believes this could be the best Pontiacs team in the franchise’s history.
They added who Swan calls the best player in Canada between the pipes. Recently signed Colby Muise from the OJHL won the Top Goalie Award with the North York Rangers, and will suit up for the Pontiacs this season.
The defence corps added depth in Jeremy Gervais, the Telus Cup’s Top Defenceman in 2017. Sean Thomson and Cody Lehner round out the additions on the blueline.
Swan also thinks the forwards are the strength of the team.
If anything, he says he doesn’t want to get ahead of himself heading into next year.
“I’m so optimistic and excited. This is the team Bonnyville has been waiting for, for the past 27 years. This is the team that will generate the excitement our great fans have been patient for. This is the team that we wanted this year and orcastrated last year for…. Our fans are hopefully as excited as I am the first time they come out and watch them play.”