(Article written by Jamie Neugebauer)
A ‘coaching tree’ refers to the list of those who were coached by, or coached with a specific individual and then went on to be a successful coach in their own right.
Perhaps the most famous National Hockey League example is Hall of Famer Scotty Bowman, who boasts an extensive ‘tree’, to go along with his record of nine Stanley Cups, and 1,244 wins.
It is hard to say whether long-time Melfort Mustangs’ head coach and general manager Trevor Blevins is the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League’s version of that, but at the very least, he is well on his way.
Four current SJHL assistant coaches played under him: his current assistant Tye Scherger, Battlefords North Stars assistant Garry Childerhose, Carter Hansen of the Humboldt Broncos, and La Ronge Ice Wolves’ No. 2 Kyle Schneider.
Recent Mustangs’ grad Clarke Huxley is an assistant in Alberta minor hockey with the Calgary Northstars AAA. At the same time, Regina Pats’ Director of Hockey Operations Tristan Frei won two SJHL championships under Blevins’ watch.
Like a true leader, Blevins is slow to take credit and quick to heap praise.
“I think first and foremost, the one thing that sticks out for all those individuals is that their character has always been at a high level,” Blevins says.
“You can call that ‘character’ piece work ethic, you can call it attitude, you can say they were coachable; they were all those things. When I think of those guys, I think of how they are great people, respectful, great teammates, and my opinion of them hasn’t changed from when they were players under me to this day. For all of them, as good players as they were, I also think ability takes a back seat to all of those traits.”
A Melfort native, Blevins has spent 30 years either playing for or coaching his hometown team, with only small interruptions.
As a scrappy, skilled right winger in the mid-1990s, he helped the Mustangs to the 1996 SJHL championship, and then ultimately fell, at home, in the Junior A National Championship to the British Columbia Hockey League’s Vernon Vipers.
After long stints as an assistant coach with the Mustangs in the mid-2000s and jobs in nearby Tisdale and Carrot River, he was handed the head coach reigns of his beloved club in December of 2013 and has not relinquished them since.
“I’m Melfort through and through and probably bleed blue and green,” he says.
“I definitely still work to learn and develop myself as a coach every day, but in saying that I’m quite content here and coaching at this level. Melfort is my home, I have deep roots here, my family is heavily involved here, and I run a business here. This is a great organization, Junior A hockey in Saskatchewan is fantastic, with the competitiveness and the parity of it, I just feel it’s a great spot to be and I cannot thank the board of directors and the organization and the people of this town enough for their faith in me. To give me this huge responsibility, I don’t take it lightly.”
It is also clear that the appreciation is mutual. Blevins, who became the club record wins holder as head coach with his 212th victory on Dec. 10, 2019, was handed a fresh contract in the summer of 2021 that will keep him in ‘the City of Northern Lights’ at least through the 2024-2025 campaign.
After so many wins, deep playoff runs, college and university commitments, and accolades to his players in his pocket, it is no surprise the powers that be at the Northern Lights Palace are more than pleased with the 48-year-old local.
“As an organization, this is a pretty easy decision when you have a person in your community that has the skill and drive that he does, and it shows in the team he always has under him,” said Mustangs Vice President Chad Elliott at the time of his contract renewal.
“(He is constantly) pushing and growing these young men so they reach their top potential, which usually turns into SJHL finals and an extension of their hockey careers. We are excited to bring Trevor back for three more seasons.”
Trevor and his wife Lydia, who is the city’s director of public works, live in Melfort with their five teenage children, all of whom are involved heavily in local sports.
Lukas, the oldest, is a defensive back on the University of Saskatchewan football team. At the same time, the 15-year-olds are deep into their hockey careers as Jaxon plays U15AA in Prince Albert, and Danelle U18AAA with the Saskatoon Stars.
The youngest two, Harper and Rohan, are into a variety of sports and programs in the area as well.
“We have lots on the go but my wonderful wife and I try to balance work with family,” he says.
“I think it’s so important to be able to shut off the phone, to give the family all of my attention when I am present. It’s a balancing act, but we do it. I appreciate my family’s support in being away as much as I am, it’s a big commitment. Lydia does a great job managing the house for us, I cannot thank her enough.”
As much as Trevor has the responsibility to help parent and shepherd the five kids in his house and the 20-plus kids at the rink, he is also quick to credit his mentors for their role in shaping who his today as a man first and a coach second.
His late father, Al, coached him throughout minor hockey and taught him that the game in Canada should come with the non-negotiables of high competition, but also that it should be viewed as a lot of fun as well.
“Being a smaller guy, I always needed a high motor,” Blevins says, “and I think he instilled that in me when I was young.
“And you know, as a coach, I think he was a real good people person. I thought as colourful as he was in his day, I think he was a fair coach, but also a coach that communicated well with his players and had fun with the game. That’s one thing we do here in Melfort is that we enjoy going to the rink every day. There’s a balance between working hard and having fun, and to succeed you need to find that. Those are the two things that I can say that he had the biggest influence on me.”
The second major influence he listed is Kevin Dickie, his head coach as a player with the Mustangs. Dickie, who retired as the Executive Director of Athletics at Acadia University in Wolfville, NS in 2021, was the boss in Melfort from 1991 to that fateful RBC Cup final in 1996. He then went on to coach the Saskatoon Blades of the Western Hockey League, the Acadia men’s hockey team, and the IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship in 2001.
Blevins still leans on the Nova Scotia resident regularly.
“Every coach has to constantly adapt and evolve how they go about things,” Blevins says, “but I will say though that a lot of what (Kevin Dickie) did as a coach, how he operated and his practice structure, his game structure, his daily routines, his game preparation, a lot of what we do today is based on what he did back then.
“He was a great communicator,” he continues, “our game day prep was always amazing, we were ready not only for us but for the opponents, and we were ready not only for us but for the opponents every night. I thank him for his support and his mentorship through the years. We still chat quite a bit, he’s been an excellent resource and he’s helped my progression a lot.”
It is so clear that Blevins is all about development, be it players, coaches, or broadcasters – like the recently departed Melfort voice and marketing manager Matt Barrett who left in the off-season to the Swift Current Broncos – and so many others.
Surely, Trevor’s ‘tree’ is well on its way to becoming a mighty presence on the hockey landscape.