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Airdrie Thunder make a switch behind the bench

By: Lucas Punkari

  |  Posted: Thursday, Dec 12, 2013 10:33 am

Newly appointed Airdrie Thunder Head Coach Kyle Haviland watched on as his team worked on an offensive drill during a practice session on Dec. 10.
Newly appointed Airdrie Thunder Head Coach Kyle Haviland watched on as his team worked on an offensive drill during a practice session on Dec. 10.
LUCAS PUNKARI/Rocky View Publishing

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With the Airdrie Thunder languishing near the bottom of the Heritage Junior Hockey League (HJHL) standings, General Manager Frank McEvoy felt that it was time to make a change behind the bench.

The team announced on Dec. 6 that second-year Head Coach Cam Aplin has been relieved of his duties, and that former Thunder Assistant Coach Kyle Haviland would replace him.

At time of the change, the Thunder were in sixth place in the HJHL’s Northern Division, and possessed the second worst record in the entire league with a 6-12-0-1 mark.

“Everything was at a standstill with how the guys were playing, and things weren’t getting any better as of late,” McEvoy said. “I could see that the players were not very motivated out there, and it became pretty obvious what I had to do, especially at this point in the year.”

Forty-two-year-old Haviland, who lives in Airdrie, was planning to take the year off from coaching after serving as the Thunder’s assistant coach in the 2012/13 campaign.

However, those plans changed when he found out the Thunder’s head coaching position was available.

“When the opportunity to come back to the team as a head coach came up, I jumped at it,” Havilland said.

“Having been with the team in the past, I knew a lot of the guys on the team already and they are good kids to work with.”

“They have a good chemistry in the dressing room, which is hard to find, and they are hard-working players with a lot of skill,” he added.

In addition to his time behind the bench as an assistant coach for the Thunder last year, Havilland has also been a head coach in the past for the Innisfail Eagles senior men’s AAA hockey team and for the Metro Jets Junior B team in Waterford, Mich.

“I even coached a little roller hockey in the Southern United States while I was playing hockey down there in the ‘90s,” Haviland said.

“I would describe myself as a player’s coach, and I like to communicate with my players to know where they are coming from in different situations.”

“I like to have a very defensive-minded system out there, and I don’t like to play a run-and-gun style of game,” he added.

Haviland’s tenure behind the bench began on a winning note on Dec. 8 in Ponoka, as the Thunder came away with a convincing 8-1 win over the host Stampeders.

“The players were up for it and they turned in a strong effort, which was exciting to see,” Havilland said. “Everyone had a solid hard-working effort, and I hope that we can build off of that going forward,”

The Thunder will be looking to give its new coach his first win at the Ron Ebbesen Arena on Dec. 13, when it will take on the Stettler Lightning at 8 p.m.

“Right now, we are really focusing on the fundamentals,” Haviland said.

“I will be introducing some new systems for the team here soon, but it’s hard to change things up and be effective when you only have a couple of practices until your next game.”

Aplin did not return calls as of press time.


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