After five years of involvement with the Airdrie Xtreme’s coaching staff, head coach Reid Hnatowich is departing the AAA bantam team, after accepting an assistant coaching role with the Okotoks Oilers of the Alberta Junior Hockey League (AJHL). “It’s a very unique and exciting opportunity, especially given my age,” said the 22-year-old bench boss. “I’m really looking forward to it – I’ll be the assistant coach and director of hockey development, so managing the business operations of all things hockey-related.” Hnatowich is no stranger to Okotoks’ Junior A hockey team – he was the Oilers’ skills development coach and assistant director of hockey development this season, alongside his head-coaching role with the Xtreme. He also worked as a scout for the Oilers in 2017. Hnatowich, who took over the Xtreme’s head-coaching role for the 2018-19 season, was the team’s assistant coach from 2014 to 2018. During the 2017-18 season, Airdrie won its first Alberta Major Bantam Hockey League (AMBHL) championship in nine years, and subsequently finished with the silver medal at the 2018 Western Canadian Bantam AAA Championships. Following the championship season, 2018-19 turned out to be a re-building year for the Xtreme. The coaching staff had to put together an entirely new roster, including many first-year bantam players. Airdrie finished bottom of the Ram South Division with a 10-20-3 record, not qualifying for the AMBHL playoffs. But for Hnatowich, the most important thing is never the team’s record, but the development each player undergoes. “I don’t categorize successful seasons in terms of wins and losses,” he said. “I believe it’s heavily about the people we get to interact with, develop and progress on to the next level. “Every season, the highlight for me is meeting a new group of individuals, helping them develop and progress in their hockey career, and hopefully seeing them one day achieve their goals and reach their dreams. Being a small part of that is really the highlight for me coaching at that [bantam] level.” Hnatowich said many of the lessons and opportunities he’s experienced during his time with the Xtreme will help him in his new role for the Oilers. “At the end of the day, what [junior] hockey is about is being that stepping stone – providing the opportunity to develop, grow and progress,” he said. “Just like with the bantam players, we’re going to try and do the same thing here with the 16- [to] 20-year-olds.” As of March 5, the Oilers is second in the AJHL’s south division with a 39-19-2 record.