By Mike Stackhouse
The Executive Board of the Battlefords North Stars was thrown a curve ball late in the offseason when head coach Kevin Hasselberg announced he had accepted a job in the minor pro ranks. Enter Nate Bedford, the former coach of Keyano College in Fort McMurray. Bedford comes to the team late in the game and with a personal life that nobody would envy having lost his home in the wildfires.
“To say it’s been a challenge is an understatement. I’m fortunate in that I have a supportive wife back in Fort McMurray dealing with 90 perfect of this. She’s on maternity leave and is able to run the home end of things and the clean up. For me, I’d be lying if I said that every once in a while it doesn’t creep into my mind when I’m on the ice or in the office; but the best thing you can do is work. So, it’s been a blessing in disguise that way because I just haven’t had a lot of time to dwell on it. I should also say we don’t have nearly the challenges that a lot of other people who live there have, so are also very fortunate,” says Bedford.
On the ice, Bedford acknowledges that most changes happen a couple of months prior to the beginning of a season, so he’s had to cram a lot into a few weeks that would, ordinarily, be doing over a few months. “It’s not as bad as it looks. You work longer days and try to learn on the fly a bit more; but the other coaches around the league have been great to work with and I can’t say enough about the staff already in place. I don’t know where I’d be without them.”
Bedford isn’t looking for a honeymoon with the fans either. “I know expecting a league championship is a bold statement and I should be careful with my words, but with the talent I see and the character I see here, I can’t accept losing as an option. At Keyano we had to play a certain way because we didn’t have the skill. Here, there is an abundance of that and a lot of good, quality kids. So it doesn’t matter whether I’m a first year coach or a fifth year coach. The potential is here.”
Kendall Fransoo and Connor Sych are a couple of excellent anchors on the back end Bedford will be sending out in all key situations. Fransoo made an immediate impact on Bedford with his off-ice make-up; while Sych carries leadership capabilities and moves the puck as well as any blueliner in the league. Up front, Connor Logan comes over from the BCHL as a potential first liner and Layne Young returns after an incredible rookie year. Bedford says Young is a special talent who understands the game very well and that allows him to be a few seconds quicker than those trying to defend him.
“I know the community will miss Kevin. The fans loved him and the Board loved him. But, I’m not wrapped up in that. My concern isn’t the old boyfriend. I’m just making sure we get to work and build new relationships,” said Bedford.