BARRHEAD- Dave Hyrsky did not believe he would be coaching this season.
After coaching hockey at various levels in multiple countries for the better part of 30 years, Hrysky, the Barrhead Bombers' new bench boss, believed he would be taking some time away from coaching.
"I had just gotten back from Europe after spending four months with my family, and because of COVID, I wasn't looking to get back into coaching," he said between sessions of Sept. 18's tryout camp.
But as hockey season grew closer, Hyrsky decided he wanted to get behind the bench again, so he called Ron White, commissioner of the Western States Hockey League (WSHL), asking him if he knew of any Canadian coaching positions available.
White said he knew that at least three of the league's Canadian franchises were looking for coaches and referred him to Aly Virani.
Virani of Barrhead Inn and Suites, an Edmonton-based property, investment and hospitality entrepreneur, is the new owner of the Bombers, having taken ownership over from White in early August.
Shortly after taking control of the team, Virani announced that Barrhead native Allan Measures would be the team's coach. Unfortunately, because of a death in the family, Measures wasn't able to fulfil the obligation.
After narrowing down the prospective candidates, Virani said it did not take long to realize Hrysky was his guy.
"After having conversations with various candidates, it seems like Dave was the best fit," Virani said. "Not only will he be a coach, but he wants to be part of the community. He plans to live in Barrhead, and after settling in, he will be reaching out to minor hockey ... he will certainly be very engaged."
And Hyrsky said he liked what the Barrhead owner had to say.
"I like Aly. I trust what he is trying to build here," Hyrsky said. "Trust is a big factor between a coach and owner, especially at this level. He wants to build one of the best organizations in the WSHL and we are on the same page on a lot of stuff."
Hyrsky's hockey career began like most coaches: as a playergoing all the way from minor youth hockey right up to the Junior A level, in his home town of Sault Ste. Marie, Ont.
"I was a centreman," he said.
After playing three years of Junior, Hyrsky made the jump to the Canadian Interuniversity Athletic Union (CIAU), now called USports, playing for Laurentian University while pursuing a degree in sociology.
From there, to extend his playing career, he played professionally in Italy and England for two years in the early 1990s.
It was while playing in England for the Stevenage Sharks that Hyrsky considered coaching might be in his future.
"I stopped playing early as, I knew I wasn't going to make it to the NHL. But I knew that I wanted to continue in the sport and that I had something to contribute," he said.
Hyrsky's first coaching job was as a player/coach with England's Stevenage Sharks.
He then returned to Laurentian University taking an assistant coaching position before transitioning to head coach for two or three years. Eventually, he decided to coach at the Junior A level for teams in northern Ontario.
"I then took a job in the former Yugoslavia in Serbia, right after the war. It was an interesting time, but I enjoyed it," Hyrsky said.
While in Serbia, he coached professional teams, as well as all their national men's teams, including U18, U20 and their men's team, winning a World Championship with the Men's team and silver with U18 and U20 teams.
"It was a lot of fun. Hockey has allowed me to visit a lot of places in the world," he said.
From there, in about 2003, Hyrsky moved to the Netherlands, coaching a variety of professional teams for the next 14 years.
"I then got a call from John Marks and he offered me the head coaching job in Las Vegas with the Western States Hockey League and the Thunderbirds," he said.
John Marks is a former NHLer who played 16 years with the Chicago Blackhawks.
As for the Bombers, Hyrsky said there is a lot of work to be done before the start of the regular season on Oct. 29, especially in recruiting.
"We have a few players signed and we saw some players today that we really liked," he said. "And we will have some kids coming from Europe in a couple of weeks, but COVID has hampered recruiting and how we do things a bit. We may have to deal with some quarantines and things but it is a league rule that players, coaches and all members of the team must be double vaccinated."
The WSHL is a Tier II junior hockey league. It differs from traditional junior hockey leagues in that it is a tuition-based league in that its players have to pay a fee to play. The 2021-2022 season will be the Bombers second year in the league, since relocating from Long Beach, Calif.
However, as Virani said, it is more like their second first year.
"It's good hockey. It is fast and there is a good skill level, people who come out to the games, who haven't seen the WSHL before, will be surprised at just how good the product is," Hyrsky said.
"The competition for kids is fierce. We are competing against Junior B, the AJ [Alberta Junior Hockey League, under 18 all that stuff, but when they find out more about the league, how good it can be and the opportunities after, it opens some eyes."