Some familiar faces will man the benches of Airdrie’s top minor hockey teams next season.
The Airdrie Cochrane Athletic Association (ACAA), which oversees the communities’ elite-level youth hockey teams, announced the head coaches for the 2020-21 season July 3.
Continuity was the theme of the announcement – Dustin Taylor will retain his role as head coach of the Airdrie CFR Chemical Bisons U18 AAA squad, while Terry Sydoryk will remain the head coach of the Airdrie-Cochrane (AC) Avalanche U16 AAA team. Both coaches are entering their third consecutive season with their respective teams. Tyson Soloski, meanwhile, will continue as the head coach of the Airdrie Xtreme U15 AAA team after taking over the role last year.
“We’re trying to have some consistency throughout the ACAA, so we’re trying to develop not only the kids but the coaches also,” said Cam LeGrandeur, chair of the ACAA. “We’re excited for the year.”
New to the association this year is the introduction of a U16 AA team, which will play in the South Central Alberta Hockey League. According to LeGrandeur, the team – which will be called the AC Havoc – will play and practice out of both Airdrie and Cochrane.
He added the head coach for the Havoc’s inaugural season will be David Chamberlain, who was previously an assistant coach with the Bisons. Chamberlain’s hockey experience includes 10 years of holding administrative positions with Crowfoot Minor Hockey, as well as a director-at-large position with the Northwest Calgary Athletic Association and Calgary Minor Hockey, LeGrandeur said.
“He’s familiar with our goals – we want to build good hockey players, but good individuals too, who contribute to the association and the community,” LeGrandeur said. “[Chamberlain] has a great depth of coaching skills and knowledge, and I think he’ll be a great fit.”
Sydoryk, who has coached for nearly a decade at the U16 AAA level, will retain his role with the Avalanche. Last season, the squad had a memorable campaign, qualifying for the Alberta Minor Midget Hockey League’s provincial championship. Unluckily for the team, the tournament was cancelled just a week before it was scheduled in March because of COVID-19.
“Unfortunately, we had a quick exit from the season last year, due to COVID,” LeGrandeur said. “Hopefully we can return and have a safe season. Hockey is a great game, so we’re looking forward to getting back to it.”
Taylor said he is looking forward to his third season as head coach of the Bisons, adding the program has continued to trend in a positive direction since relocating to Airdrie from Strathmore.
“You can see a positive change and effect, so I’m looking forward to seeing where things have progressed over the past year,” he said. “There’s the potential to have quite a few returning players, as long as they’ve done their work in the offseason, and that in itself brings in a whole new layer of excitement.”
While there is still some uncertainty regarding what the 2020-21 season will look like because of the pandemic, Taylor added the Bisons’ coaching staff are ready for multiple scenarios.
"We have Plan A through L in terms of how training camp is going to run, what it’s going to look like and how we plan it,” he said. “I think what we’ve done most recently is take a back seat in terms of waiting to see what information comes forward. We’re still in contact with as many players as possible, making sure they’re doing their part in terms of coming ready and prepared.”
LeGrandeur said a continued focus will be collaboration between coaches. While the teams each play in different leagues and age groups, it is common for players who are performing well in the younger squads to be called up to the older teams.
“The affiliation process has been working quite well within all the groups, working with both associations in Airdrie and Cochrane,” he said. “It’s just a good fit and it works well for the association.”