By Jamie Neugebauer
Brett Pilkington’s new employment at Notre Dame as Junior A assistant coach and camp co-ordinator means much more to the Calgary native than merely the acceptance of a new job.
It is the realization of lifelong dream.
“Being an Alberta boy, growing up playing hockey, I had heard of, and always wanted to be a Notre Dame Hound,” he says.
“The great history of the school, and its teams, speaks for itself, and while when I was a kid it wasn’t in the cards for my family to send me here, having the opportunity to come as a coach is a ‘no-brainer’.”
The 35-year-old played one year of junior in the Alberta Junior Hockey League with the Olds Grizzlies, before embarking on a four-year NCAA Division I career in Bowling Green, Ohio with the BGSU Falcons.
Upon graduation in 2006, the well-built centreman embarked on an 11-stop, four-year professional career, including American Hockey League stints in the New Jersey Devils, and New York Islanders organizations.
By 2010, his playing career spent, Pilkington embarked into the ‘real world’, only to return to the game he loved in 2017 as the head coach of the Calgary Buffaloes Midget AAA.
It is his exactly his unique and varied perspective that he hopes will be at the heart of what he will bring to the benches and offices of ND.
“What I want to do as a coach is to take what I learned in hockey, and in life, and help kids to achieve their on- and off-ice goals,” he says.
“I bring great value in that area because I played pro for almost four years, then went out into the ‘real world’ for eight years, and lived that life as well, and realized I missed hockey too much. So, while I definitely hope that I can help our players extend their hockey careers, I also hope to help them to become the people they need to be before they go out into the ‘real world’.”
Pilkington also notes that he plans to encourage in the players the ‘fun element’ of being part of a team, but to also “follow through with what (head coach) Phil Roy is preaching, with regards to accountability and habits, those things that prepare the guys for life and hockey after ND.”
The last (but not at all least important) area in which Pilkington is a perfect fit on the staff is his desire to put his family first, knowing he has their full backing to do his best, and work hard for the betterment of Notre Dame in general, and the junior team specifically.
“When the opportunity arose,” he says, “my wife and I sat down numerous times to chat about whether this was, first and foremost, the right opportunity for us as a family, not just me as a coach. We came out and toured Wilcox, and showed the kids what it’s all about, and we all kind of bought in Day 1 that coming here was the right place for all of us.”
Brett will be joined in Wilcox by his wife Lindsay, their nine-year-old daughter Allie, and soon-to-be-seven-year-old son Brodie.