By Dave Leaderhouse
Editor’s note: This is the sixth in a series of features on the 12 head coaches in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League that will run every Friday throughout the summer. The intent is to familiarize the fans with those who are in charge of the various clubs as there has been a significant turnover in the last couple of seasons. Often ready to take a backseat to the players, as those are the ones who deserve to be in the spotlight, the coaches and general managers shoulder the responsibility for putting the product on the ice and rightfully deserve credit for making the SJHL one of the premiere Junior “A” leagues in the country.
So, what does Brayden Klimosko do for an encore?
After years of being an assistant coach, first in Humboldt with the Broncos and then again in Drumheller with the Dragons, Klimosko got his first taste of being a head coach last season and all he did was guide the Battlefords North Stars to the Canalta Cup championship.
“I guess I got spoiled a bit,” laughs Klimosko, who inherited a team that was on the cusp of accomplishing something great, but with his guidance completed what was basically unfinished business from the year before when after being runaway winners of the Global Ag Risks Solution Division were bumped from the playoffs in the semifinals by the Estevan Bruins. “In all my years as an assistant we never got that far so last year was certainly something very special.”
Klimosko’s initiation into the head coaching ranks didn’t get off to a blazing start as the Stars dropped three of their first four games to open the season, but after finishing the year with a 9-0-0-1 mark to repeat as divisional champs the Battlefords went on a 12-2 run in the playoffs to capture their second title in the last three years.
The road ended with a five-game setback to the Portage Terriers in the Anavet Cup championship so if there is a goal it would be to move past that round. Klimosko realizes, however, that will be a challenge as the Stars lose a number of key players including Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League defenceman of the year Cody Spagrud and team scoring leader Macgregor Sinclair.
“We will lose six forwards, one goalie and one defenceman so those are some pretty big holes to fill,” admits Klimosko. “There will be a little bit of a change of scenery. We will need a lot of things to go right.”
The 31-year-old Klimosko grew up in Humboldt and played his junior hockey with the hometown Broncos. His three-year career culminated with Humboldt winning its second national championship in 2008 and following several seasons of senior hockey in Bruno he decided to get into coaching.
Klimosko has worked under several veteran coaches including Dean Brockman, Kevin Hasselberg and the late Darcy Haugen. In fact, Klimosko was in the running to replace Haugen in Humboldt after the tragic 2018 bus crash that claimed 16 lives, but the road made a turn towards the Battlefords and the rest as they say is history.
“It’s not where you start, but where you finish,” surmises Klimosko. “We are going to have a lot of new faces, but what I want is to be fast and physical. We need to be quick and finish our hits. Most importantly we need to compete every day.”
After having years of stability behind the bench with Hasselberg leading the way, Klimosko became the third coach in as many years last season following Nate Bedford (2016-17) and Brandon Heck (2017-18). His success last year taking a team to a championship gives him some credibility, but now the real work begins as he starts to set the table with new talent. Klimosko says he is more than ready for the challenge.