Fans will see a new face behind the bench for the Airdrie Xtreme next season – Tyson Soloski was appointed as the AAA bantam hockey team’s new head coach.
The 26-year-old will replace Reid Hnatowich, who departed the organization after the 2018-19 season to take an assistant coaching role with the Okotoks Oilers Junior A team.
“It’s very exciting and I’m very honoured to be chosen,” Soloski said. “I’m just excited to get started.”
The newcomer brings five years of coaching experience, including stints with the Bow Valley Timberwolves AA bantam and AA midget teams, in Cochrane. In 2017-18, his AA midget Timberwolves won the North Division of the South Central Alberta Hockey League – an achievement he ranks among the highlights of his coaching career.
“It was special,” Soloski said. “It was really cool to see a group of 16- and 17-year-olds come together and put together a really good season.”
Following four seasons with the Timberwolves, Soloski’s most recent role was as an assistant coach with the Airdrie-Cochrane (AC) Avalanche AAA minor midget in 2018-19. He said the position showed him what it takes to coach at the elite level.
“The head coach, Terry Sydoruk, did an awesome job,” he said. “It gave me the opportunity to sit back and learn quite a bit from him and the other coaches.
“We didn’t have a very successful season in terms of the standings, but I thought we did well with development and how every player came a long way throughout the year.”
Continuing to build the Xtreme program will be his focus next season, he added.
“[Previous coaches] have done an awesome job so far, so I just want to continue building the program and allowing the players to have the opportunity to play at a higher level,” he said.
As a player, Soloski laced his skates for four seasons in the Heritage Junior Hockey League with the Cochrane Generals, from 2010 to 2014. While the Generals didn’t win a championship during that time, Soloski enjoyed a sparkling personal career, registering 231 points in 177 games as a forward for the Junior B team.
His first task as head coach will be to organize the team’s spring training camp for prospective players, which runs June 14 to 16 at the Ron Ebbesen Arena in Airdrie.
“We have spring camp next weekend and then tryouts at the end of the summer, and then the season starts,” he said. “I’m just very excited to get started – just to meet all the kids and the parents and get started.”
After the Xtreme won the Alberta Major Bantam Hockey League championship in 2018, last season proved to be a rebuilding year for the team. Airdrie finished at the bottom of the Ram South Division with a 10-20-3 record and didn’t qualify for the playoffs.
While trying to get back into the playoffs will certainly be on Soloski’s mind, he said results on the scoreboard are not the main indicator of success at the bantam level.
“In this age group, the biggest thing is player development,” he said.
“It’s not worrying about making mistakes or worrying too much about Xs and Os, but making sure everyone is working hard every shift and developing every practice and game. If you do that properly, you’re going to find the results you want – whether that’s wins or losses, or development – by the end of the year.”