By Dave Leaderhouse
Sometimes things are just meant to be!
Wes Rudy was a fan of the Weyburn Red Wings more than 30 years ago when his older brother Tom was a member of the 1984 Centennial Cup championship squad from that southeastern Saskatchewan city and now he is the head coach of that same franchise.
“I actually never thought of being a head coach,” admitted Rudy recently. “I was involved in hockey all my life until I was about 24 and then life changes. But, hockey is addictive.”
Originally from Wadena, Sask., Rudy played his junior hockey in British Columbia in the early 1990s, first with Bellingham and then with Surrey, and when his playing days were done he remained in Surrey where he was a goaltending coach with the South Surrey Eagles when they won the RBC Cup in 1998.
Then, like he says, life changes.
He eventually got married and had a family and was out of the game for 16 or so years before resurfacing with the Red Wings three years ago as a goaltending coach. Last year he was moved up to assistant coach and when former head coach and general manager Bryce Thoma left the club earlier this summer to take an assistant coaching position with the Western Hockey League’s Saskatoon Blades, Rudy decided now was the time to make a move.
“You have to recognize an opportunity when you see it,” says Rudy. “Bryce had set this team in a direction and I wanted to keep it going in that same direction.”
“I want this to be clear though, I didn’t want the GM job,” added Rudy, who will be joined by Tanner McCall on the staff responsible for keeping the Red Wings moving forward. “I thought Tanner could be the GM and that he would be great.”
With no head coaching experience to fall back on Rudy admits what he learned from Thoma will certainly benefit him.
“I have nothing but great things to say about Bryce,” acknowledges Rudy. “He has the perfect mind when it comes to hockey.”
“Systems are systems, but I will certainly assume a leadership role,” adds Rudy. “I’m a positive coach. When I first got the call about the job I asked my wife what she thought. She said “what makes you a good goaltending coach? Use that.”
Rudy says he expects the Red Wings to be competitive every game and he wants to go into every game expecting to win even though he realizes that is a pretty lofty goal. That’s where being positive comes in handy, however.
“This is a great league,” stated Rudy. “I grew up as a fan of the league and now I see coaching is heading in the right direction in this league. The people that are involved in the league are in it for the right reasons.”
The Red Wings are coming off a season that saw them capture the Viterra Division banner before being sidelined by the Flin Flon Bombers in the quarter-finals. Rudy admits the lateness in filling the positions had some players waiting and wondering what was going to happen before making any commitment to the club, but now it is time to get down to business and he is thrilled with the opportunity.
Thoma had turned around a franchise that had fallen on hard times after the legendary Dwight McMillan and Ron Rumball had achieved so much success during the previous 40 years. Now it is up to Rudy and McCall to continue with what has been put in place. Good luck to both as the league and its fans look forward to another chapter of Red Wing hockey.