After missing the playoffs in each of the last three seasons the La Ronge Ice Wolves were looking for someone to lead them in a different direction when they made a coaching change at the end of the 2018-19 campaign.
It certainly looks like they selected the right person as Ice Wolves’ head coach and general manager Kevin Kaminski has been picked as a co-winner of the Canalta Hotels Coach of the Year Award for the 2019-20 season.
“We had a quick meeting at practise this morning (Tuesday) and I thanked all the players for making this happen,” said Kaminski. “We got off to an 0-5 start because they found ways to lose instead of finding ways to win and then they bought in to what we said and started to believe in themselves.”
Kaminski shares the award with Battlefords North Stars head coach Brayden Klimosko and the rookie La Ronge bench boss was quick to pass on his congratulations to his rival.
“The Battlefords have been the most consistent team all season and I want to pass on a huge congratulations to Brayden,” says Kaminski.
Kaminski returned to his native Saskatchewan last summer after spending the last three decades south of the border, first as a player at various professional levels, including 139 games in the National Hockey League, and then as a coach beginning as an assistant to Mike Babcock with the Cincinnati Mighty Ducks in 2000-01.
This isn’t Kaminski’s first coach-of-the-year accolades as he was also named the top coach in 2008-09 when he was in charge of the Mississippi Riverkings of the Central Hockey League. He has also had stints behind the bench in Long Beach, Missouri, Youngstown, Louisiana and most recently Fresno, but he has relished the opportunity of being closer to home.
“I really want to thank the board of directors for giving me this opportunity and having faith in me to turn this thing around,” says Kaminski.
Turn things around indeed!
The Ice Wolves enter the final weekend of the regular season with a 31-19-3-3 record and are in a heated battle with the Yorkton Terriers, Melfort Mustangs and Nipawin Hawks to try and nail down a top-four spot so that they can have home-ice advantage for the quarter-final round.
Those 31 wins are three more than the Ice Wolves cumulatively posted in the last three years and it is also the most victories by a La Ronge team in a single season in nearly a decade. Kaminski responded with “that’s cool” when informed of the drastic improvement turned in by his team, but he also quickly deflected the credit to his assistant coach Gaelan Patterson and head scout Rob Fiola.
“This is a we program and a we team; Patty (Patterson) deserves as much credit as me – he has a great future in the game,” says Kaminski.
With the Ice Wolves making their first playoff appearance in four years Kaminski wants to try and make that experience last as long as possible.
“Whoever we play we are going to be prepared,” says the Churchbridge, Sask., native. “We will be as prepared as a coaching staff can be and then it is up to the players.”
“We’re a team that has been hungry all year,” adds Kaminski. “We do our best to go to war for each other.”