A former championship-winning coach with the Airdrie Techmation Thunder has rejoined the junior B team in a new role.
Derek Stamp, who led the Thunder to the Heritage Junior Hockey League (HJHL) title and junior B provincial championship as head coach in 2019, has rejoined the Airdrie squad as the team’s new director of operations.
“It's a really exciting opportunity,” said Stamp, who parted ways with the Thunder after the 2019-20 season. “Last season was the first time in 20 years I wasn't behind the bench. There were parts of coaching I missed, and there were also parts I didn't miss as much.
“When [team president Gord Ziegler] came to me with this opportunity just after Christmas, it was really exciting – It gave me a chance to stay involved and continue to grow the organization from a different challenge standpoint.”
As director of operations, Stamp said he will oversee the Thunder’s off-ice operations on a day-to-day basis, and act as a bridge between the team’s coaching staff and its ownership/management team.
“I think Gord is always looking to make the organization better, and he's always trying to identify areas or gaps where things could be improved. I think he saw a gap between what the coaching staff does from a hockey standpoint to what the executive does from a leadership standpoint,” he said.
“There was a missing piece in the middle that operated the day to day – making sure the coaches have what they need to ensure everything is scheduled and booked properly to help with player recruitment, and to promote the vision of what the Thunder is and how we can be more involved in the community.”
In rejoining the team, Stamp added he is most looking forward to reconnecting with the players who are still there from when he was coach and getting to know the team’s new players.
Stamp coached the Thunder from 2017 to 2020. In three seasons, he led the Thunder to a 110-28-8 overall record – a 75 per cent win percentage – including an 18-9-2 record in the HJHL playoffs and an unbeaten five games at the provincial junior B championships in 2019.
In Stamp’s second year with the team, Airdrie was the highest-ranked junior B teams in Canada, according to myhockeyrankings.com, and finished the 2018-19 HJHL regular season with a dominant 35-3-0 record. The Thunder then coasted to their first league championship in 19 years, with a 12-1-0 record in the HJHL playoffs.
After that accolade, the Thunder won their first-ever provincial junior B title in April 2019, winning five games in the provincial tournament, including an overtime victory against the Wainwright Bisons in the gold-medal match-up.
Defending their titles the following year with a partially new-look roster, the Thunder still finished the 2020-21 season in first place of the North Division, but went out in the second round of the HJHL playoffs following a tightly fought series against the Mountainview Colts. Stamp, whose three-year contract had come to an end, was replaced at the end of the season by current head coach Chad Moore.
While the Thunder’s 2020-21 season was cut short after just four games due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Ziegler said the team is optimistic Alberta’s lifting of most public health restrictions in the coming weeks will allow the team to prepare for the 2021-22 HJHL campaign in full.
“Right now, there are still some guidelines we have to follow but we're all hoping like everybody else by the early summer [that we’ll be able to play],” he said. “We do have some early skates coming up. It's a 100 per cent go.”