The first day of summer may have finally arrived, but one Airdrie hockey team has been busy preparing for the upcoming season.
The Bantam AAA Airdrie Xtreme has named a new head coach – and it is a familiar name in former bench boss Terry Keogh. He led the team for three seasons from 2005-08 and said he is happy to be returning to the role.
“The decision was made by the board to go to try something different for a couple years, but I’m back after two years – and glad to be back,” he said.
“The time we had put in working and developing the program, we were working with the coaches in the feeder system in Peewee and Bantam AA, was working well. It creates a real sustainability in the team year after year.”
The timing of the announcement may seem odd, moving into the summer months, but Keogh says it will give him ample time to prepare for the job.
“We start our condition camp on the 30th of August, then we go into tryouts the Friday of Labour Day weekend,” he said, adding the Bantam AAA season will start earlier than usual this year.
“We’re going to have to make decisions very early. There is a lot of work that has be done ahead of time, a lot of planning; getting the coaching staff together and developing a plan for the season. That’s why we looked at getting the announcement done now.”
The Xtreme had an impressive regular season record of 21W-5L-7T during the 2009/10 season, but lost in two straight games to Lethbridge in playoff divisional finals.
“The philosophy that we have is that we don’t put as much emphasis on the regular season,” Keogh said. “It’s all about developing the individual skills in the players, as well as the team, so that when we hit the playoffs, we’re either at our peak or almost hitting our peak.”
The Xtreme’s reputation of developing skilled players was evident in April’s WHL Bantam draft. Seven players from last year’s Airdrie team were selected: Spenser Jensen, Torrin White, Luke Philip, Sean Davies, Lenny Hackman, James Fisk and Chandler Irvin. In Jensen and White, the team will lose its best defenseman and forward respectively. This will naturally pose a challenge to Keogh, but he said the team would work through the loss.
“All of them were second year players, so they would have been lost anyways,” he said. “But that’s what we think this was about. Yeah, you look for team success, but what we’re there to do is develop these players and get them to the next level. For some of them, that means being drafted to the Western Hockey League, some of them it means to make it out to the UFA Bisons midget AAA, or some to head down the scholarship route.”
The Xtreme’s four-day condition camp begins Aug. 30.