BARRHEAD - The Barrhead Bombers have a new head coach, Joey McEwan.
The B.C. native took over the reins before the first game of the Western States Hockey League (WSHL) squad before the team's first road game of the season against the Vegreville Vipers on Nov. 12.
McEwan has an extensive playing and coaching background despite his young age, he is 32.
Originally from Terrace, B.C., McEwan moved to Kelowna when he was 10.
When he was 15, to continue with his hockey career, he moved to Banff to play midget with the Banff Hockey Academy Bears.
McEwan finished his minor hockey career in Kelowna with the Pursuit Of Excellence Hockey Academy.
He started his junior hockey career playing in the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League (KIJHL) with Invermere's Columbia Valley Rockies for the 2006-2007 season. The KIJHL is a Junior 'B' league.
The next season McEwan played for the Creston Thunder Cats in the KIJHL and the Seguin Bruins in the Ontario Junior Hockey League.
In the 2008-2009 season, McEwan found himself in the Manitoba Junior Hockey League (MJHB), playing on two different teams in Beausejour and Selkirk.
The following season, he returned to B.C. to play for the Merrit Centennials in the B.C. Junior Hockey League (BCJHL), a Junior 'A' league and the Opaskwayak Cree Nation Blizzard, in the MJHL.
He then moved on to play university hockey.
"I got a scholarship to play at Marian University in Wisconsin," McEwan said, adding later he decided to transfer to Arizona State University in his sophomore year. "(Arizona State) had a great hockey program. We were ranked the Number 1 college team in the country for three years, winning a national championship."
It was while he was at Arizona State that McEwan got into coaching. In his senior year, he was offered a graduate coaching position with the hockey team.
After university, he returned home to Kelowna, taking a coaching position with the Pursuit Of Excellence Hockey Academy, coaching bantam and midget 'AAA' teams.
He then moved on to a position with B.C. Hockey, managing their high-performance program.
Through this position, McEwan attended the 2018 Canada Winter Games, helping coach Team British Columbia.
After leaving B.C. Hockey, he took a position with the West Van Hockey Academy as the director of hockey.
In 2020, McEwan took an assistant coaching/general manager position with the Fernie Ghoastriders of the KIJHL and most recently, he was with the Ontario Hockey Academy.
He was with the Ontario Hockey Academy when he received a call from Barrhead Bomber owner Aly Virani offering him the head coaching job.
McEwan said although he wasn't actively looking to leave the academy, he said.
Although he wanted to make the jump to coach at the Junior 'A' level at this point in the hockey season, there are usually no positions available.
"It was a fluke thing," he said, about the phone call Virani. "But after talking to him for half an hour, I knew that I wanted to come to Barrhead."
It wasn't long after that initial conversation that McEwan found himself on a plane for Calgary, and was behind the bench for a pair of games against the Vegreville Vipers and the Cold Lake Aeros.
"We were short some guys," McEwan said, noting they had some players out due to injury on an already small roster.
However, he said, with his contacts, he expects to be able to fill some of the vacancies in the coming weeks.
But McEwan said he doesn't want to fill the roster with any player.
"First and foremost, we are looking for players who are good people," he said. "Being a great hockey player is awesome, but I want kids that I can work with, willing to get jobs, go to school, volunteer in the community. You can work with someone on becoming a good hockey player, but it is very hard to turn a good hockey player into a good person. My goal every year is to create 25 excellent community leaders."
McEwan said he runs a very structured program.
In the morning, he expects his players to go to work or school. In the afternoons, McEwan holds on-ice practices followed by dry land training sessions.
Unfortunately, the Bombers dropped the games, 12-3 and 11-4.
He was joined behind the bench by Virani.
"He's a very honest, hardworking individual. Hopefully together, we can build a strong program that will be here for years to come," McEwan said. "I have never seen an owner pop behind the bench. It really shows me that we are one big family working together to achieve something special."
Virani said to people looking from the outside it might seem strange to make a coaching change so early in the season and after the team had started the season with three straight wins.
"Barrhead just wasn't the right place for (Dave Hrysky), and he wasn't the right person for Barrhead," he said. "He had the hockey and coaching experience, but our personalities did not mesh."
However, he is confident McEwan not only has the hockey experience needed for the Bombers to be successful but that they are on the same wavelength.