The Airdrie CFR Chemical Bisons have worked quickly to replace former head coach Dustin Taylor, announcing Brad Bourke will take the reins next season.
The Airdrie Cochrane Athletic Association (ACAA), which oversees Airdrie’s AAA boys' hockey teams, unveiled its new coaching roster for the 2021-22 season on May 13. The reveal included the promotion of Bourke as the U17 AAA Bisons’ newest head coach.
Bourke will be a familiar face to the Bisons, as he has served as the squad’s associate coach since 2018. The 32-year-old said he’s excited to take on the head-coaching role for Airdrie's top minor hockey team.
“I’ve been with the association for a few years,” he said. “We’ve had some good teams with quite a bit of turnover. It’s exciting. The people around Airdrie, culture-wise, are really trending in the right direction.”
He added he is most looking forward to the hopeful resumption of games, after a 2020-21 season that was nearly devoid of competition due to pandemic-related restrictions. The Bisons were limited to just five games last season, as hockey was brought to a halt in November 2020.
While this will be Bourke’s first head-coaching role at the AAA level, he is no stranger to the rink. As a player, Bourke suited up for junior A teams in Alberta and British Columbia. He then spent five years in the Alberta Colleges Athletic Conference with the University of Alberta-Augustana Vikings, with whom he won a league championship in 2012.
He ended his playing days with two seasons in the Southern Professional Hockey League in the United States, playing for teams in North Carolina, Louisiana, Indiana and Florida, before returning home to play for the Stony Plain Eagles in the Allan Cup Hockey West competitive men's league.
Since becoming a coach, Bourke has worked as an instructor for the University of Alberta Summer Hockey Camp program and was a foundational strength trainer for TB Development. In addition to his associate coaching role with the Bisons, he is currently the Airdrie manager for the Global Sport Academy Group, which is an added mandatory component of the Bisons training program.
Bourke said his philosophy as a coach is built around developing relationships with each player.
“We’re obviously hoping to win a lot of games – that’s the idea and development is built in through winning,” he said. “That will be an expectation, but I do think the philosophy is behind the individual relationship-building between the player and the coach, pushing them to get to the next level.”
Having been a high-level player himself, he said he respects the maturity and accountability each Bisons player brings to the table.
“I think you have to really want it to get to those next levels and these kids have the maturity where you can really motivate them [and] help each individual player,” he said. “It’s fun. They usually have pretty good attitudes and you can see yourself at the same age.”
Regarding the ACAA’s other coaching roles, the association announced Kris Keller as the new head coach of the Airdrie-Cochrane Avalanche U16 AAA team. Keller, who has spent the last five seasons as an associate coach at the U16 AAA level, replaces former head coach Terry Sydoryk.
According to the ACAA, Sydoryk will remain with the team in an associate coaching capacity.
“Keller’s primary objective is development, and he hopes to graduate as many players as possible up from the Avalanche to their best possible next level,” a press release from the ACAA stated. “Keller has a long history with the AC Avalanche as he was a player in 2008 and 2009 and continued playing in front of the hometown crowd as a member of the Cochrane Generals [junior B team] from 2009 to 2013.”
As for the association’s other teams, Tyson Soloski will continue as the head coach of the Airdrie Xtreme U15 AAA team, while Dave Chamberlain will remain as head coach of the Airdrie-Cochrane Havoc U16 AA squad.