Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League

Ice Wolves’ Kaminski ‘a lover’ AND ‘a fighter’

You have likely heard the phrase “I’m a lover, not a fighter”, a phrase coined by 1950s country singer Jay Miller.

But in the case of Kevin “Killer” Kaminski, the La Ronge Ice Wolves head coach and general manager, he might be easily considered both.

The 55-year-old from Churchbridge, SK played 139 National Hockey League games over seven seasons, and logged 528 penalty minutes in that time, while in the American Hockey League, that ratio skyrocketed to 1,825 PIMs in just 312 games. Perhaps even more impressive: he did all that between 1988 and 2000, in an era of some true monsters, at just 5-foot-9, 170 pounds.

But he was not just a scrapper.

He had multiple professional seasons around a point-per-game, and 38 goals and 99 points for the Western Hockey League’s Saskatoon Blades in 1987-88, the year after he was picked in the third round of the NHL Draft by the Minnesota North Stars.

So, as he enters his 25th season of coaching, the last 10 of which in junior hockey, it is the love of the game that wakes him up every morning.

“That ‘Killer’ is just a nickname of my play on the ice,” he says, “I’m just a dude who loves the game.”

“(I just love to) grab a coffee and sit and … talk about the game or life in general. I just want to make these kids better players, but also well-mannered gentlemen off the ice.”

Kaminski was brought in after a string of coaches late in the 2010s ahead of the 2019-20 campaign, and he has since fallen in love with the northern Saskatchewan community.

A run of three-straight playoff appearances from 2020-2023 was broken last season, but with the potential returns of the likes of local star Jacob Cossette and 62-point man Mason Bueckert up front, and the hulking Rylan Silzer on the back end, Kaminski has loads of hope that 2024-25 will prove to be a season in which the Wolves get right back on track.

“I believe the recruitment process has been excellent,” he says.

“I look for character, mental toughness, speed, skill, playmaking, hockey IQ, (but) most of all (I need to see) very high work ethic.”

‘Killer’ has spent the summer recruiting and spending time in Sarasota, Florida to visit his daughters and granddaughters, but the desire to bring joy and pride to La Ronge and the area is never far from his mind and heart.

“(I love how) it’s a small and indigenous community that maintains a lot of the culture that they have held on to for so many generations,” he says.

“I just want to bring the community together with the great game of hockey.”

On top of a large and strong recruiting class ahead of the ’24-25 campaign, Kaminski and his staff made 10 picks at the 2024 SJHL Draft, tied for the most in the league, and the future continues to be bright with the continuity and energy that Kevin brings every day to the Mel Hegland Uniplex as he enters his sixth campaign at the helm.