18 April 2019

Winning environment in the Hay



The Vancouver Giants went out and got their man four seasons ago.  To begin the 2005-06 campaign, Vancouver was on the cusp of making some serious noise.  The Giants sought a coach that could draw on the talents of the young men in front of him while allowing the younger players the much-needed chance to realize their own potential and drive the club further.  Looking back, few would dispute that the plan has worked.  The current undefeated streak underlines it, and the Memorial Cup Championship two seasons ago puts an exclamation mark on it. 


Saturday night the Giants sat ranked fourth in the Canadian Hockey League rankings and welcomed the Brandon Wheat Kings into Pacific Coliseum in Vancouver.  It would prove to be largely a one-sided affair for the Giants, who outshot Brandon 45-19, though a late charge by the Wheaties gave the 7,538 in attendance a scare before the Giants ended the night with a 4-3 victory.  Evander Kane, fresh off being named to the WHL roster for the Canada/Russia Challenge, ended the night as the first star of the game that had been hyped as a showdown between the draft eligible Kane and Brandon standout forward Brayden Schenn.  With the win, Vancouver improved their record to 12-0-0-3 and Don Hay collected win number 400 over the course of his career as a coach in the WHL.


Hay began his career in Kamloops with the Blazers, winning two Memorial Cups.  Winning is no stranger to the man and his win total is tops among active WHL coaches.  In comparison, the OHL’s coaching darling and ex-NHL forward Dale Hunter recently graduated to the 300 win plateau, in record time with the London Knights.  The legendary Brian Kilrea, in his fnal year of a brilliant 32 year career behind the bench with the Ottawa 67's, has accumulated well over 1000 wins and three Memorial Cups.  George Burnett of the Belleville Bulls and Dave MacQueen of the Sarnia Sting are closing in on 400 victories, while Larry Mavety of the Kingston Frontenacs is approaching 700 wins.  Real Paiement of the Quebec Major Junior League will challenge Guy Chouinard’s lofty 988-win mark.


The foresight of the managerial staff has played a huge role in the success of the Vancouver Giants.  A half-season ticket holder in the Memorial Cup season, I watched games in which Vancouver battled teams that carried the likes of Darren Helm, Brandon Sutter, Kris Russell, Carey Price, and Devin Setoguchi.  Craig and Scott Bonner countered with solid drafting and shrewd decision-making along the club’s history, and the choice of hiring Don Hay away from the American Hockey League’s Utah Grizzlies may have been the most important. 


Scott is the general manager of the Giants now that Craig has moved onto the Kamloops Blazers (Hay’s hometown).   Key members of previous championship teams that the Bonners brought in for Hay are Mark Fistric, Gilbert Brule, Spencer Mahachek, Milan Lucic, Andrej Meszaros, and Cody Franson.  All these players are with NHL clubs in some capacity, and all have a bright future ahead of them. 


Don Hay manages to send a galvanized squad to battle each night, and the group is sure of itself as a whole.  Preparation is evident and the chemistry of the team is palpable.  Evander Kane was a part of the Memorial Cup winning run as a role player, brought along by the staff and groomed to provide this team with a quality presence up front.  Defensemen Brent Regner and Jonathon Blum (now the team’s top pairing) were depth players that understood how their minutes would be valuable to a team philosophy and bring about future success. 


The four hundredth win by Don Hay as a WHL head coach underlines the Giants as a threat to win a second Memorial Cup this year.  This is reflected by the Canadian Hockey League rankings, in which Vancouver sits third in the country behind the Windsor Spitfires and Moncton Wildcats.  The management team sets the Giants up to be contenders year after year since building a contender quickly out of an expansion franchise.  Owners Pat Quinn, Gordie Howe, Sultan Thiara, and Ron Toigo have undoubtedly given license to develop a winning environment. 



5 November 2008

Robin Keith Thompson

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