The Airdrie Techmation Thunder junior B hockey team has parted ways with its coaching staff and will be announcing a new head coach soon.
According to Gord Ziegler, the team’s president, head coach Derek Stamp’s three-year contract had come to a close at the end of the 2019-20 campaign and the Thunder's ownership group felt it was time to try someone new in the head coaching role.
“[Our previous coaches] did an awesome job and we’re just going in a different direction,” Ziegler said.
Stamp took over as the Thunder’s head coach from Randy Buckle in 2017. His three seasons with the squad included a memorable campaign in the 2018-19 season when Airdrie won its first Heritage Junior Hockey League (HJHL) title in 19 years, as well as its first provincial junior B championship.
“When I went in and interviewed for that position at the beginning, I laid out what I felt was a three-year plan to help them change the culture, which is what they were looking for, and help contribute to an attitude and feel of everything being about success and a commitment to excellence,” Stamp said. “I think we achieved that in the three years.”
In three seasons, Stamp coached 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 championships in 2019.
He added he enjoyed the Thunder’s success during his coaching term, as well as the relationships he formed with the players.
“Winning the province two years ago – I think that’s something we’ll remember forever,” he said. “The HJHL is an underrated league in hockey circles – it’s really good hockey and I think there are a lot of talented kids playing in that league. I think it deserves a little more credit than it receives.”
Last season, the Thunder did not boast the same level of dominance as in 2018-19, but they still topped the North Division of the HJHL with a 29-7-2 regular-season record. Airdrie then faltered in the second round of the playoffs against the fourth-seeded Mountainview Colts, who eliminated the team in six games.
The HJHL post-season was ultimately called off prematurely due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to Stamp, the phone call from the Thunder ownership about the coaching change came in May.
“It was a little bit of a surprise and a little bit of a disappointment, but that’s hockey,” he said. “I’ve been around long enough to know decisions get made. They don’t always make sense, but it’s their team and they have the right to run it how they feel.”
Stamp said he’ll take next season off from coaching, but added he’ll have a mentorship role with a minor hockey organization in Calgary.
Having coached at the AA and AAA level in Calgary and Airdrie throughout his career – mostly with U16 and U18 teams – Stamp said he enjoyed his time working with U21 players and could see himself taking the reins of a junior team again in the future.
“I really liked the time with the older age group, dealing with young men, and the challenges around that,” he said. “I’ll do some mentorship in the minor hockey circles this season and see if there’s an opportunity there.
“Or, if an opportunity comes up to get me back in with the junior age group, I’ll explore that if it comes up.”