When the Abbotsford Heat’s season ended, Troy Ward could have been forgiven if he though he’d seen the last of B.C. for a while.
Ward, the team’s head coach the previous three campaigns, was hoping to move with the franchise. But his contract was up, and the NHL parent Calgary Flames surprisingly elected not to re-sign him and instead hired Ryan Huska, the longtime bench boss of the Western Hockey League’s Kelowna Rockets.
The St. Paul, Minn. native’s time in the unemployment line didn’t last long, though – he was introduced Thursday as the new head coach of the WHL’s Vancouver Giants.
“It’s an honour,” Ward stated in a press release. “You talk about the WHL and the history of the league and everything that goes with it and the exposure, and obviously Vancouver is right there at the top.”
Ward replaces Don Hay, who departed in May to take the helm of the Kamloops Blazers.
Among the distinctives in Ward’s coaching style is an emphasis on sticking to “the process” – playing the right way on a consistent basis rather than worrying about short-term results. He also takes a greater interest in players’ off-ice lives than most coaches, to ensure there are no encumbrances to achieving their full on-ice potential.
“As far as the way he (Ward) coaches, he says he’s a life coach,” current Flames defenceman T.J. Brodie told The News back in 2011. “He wants us to be better men.
“A lot of what he would talk to me about was maturity off the ice. Like if he came to my house, would my bedroom be clean, and the dishes be clean? It’s a little bit different.”
Ward compiled a regular-season record of 119-83-26 over three seasons with the Heat, leading the team to the playoffs two of the three years.
While this will be Ward’s first foray into Canadian major junior hockey, he does have experience at the junior level south of the border, having served as general manager and head coach of the Dubuque Fighting Saints of the United States Hockey League in 1993.
Ward has also held coaching positions in the NCAA, ECHL, IHL and NHL (assistant coach with the Pittsburgh Penguins, 1997-2000).
ICE CHIPS: The Heat’s booster club is going into dormancy for a year, pending another team coming to town for the 2015-16 season.
The group rounded out its charitable endeavors with a recent $2,500 donation to Matthew’s House, a respite facility for children with severe disabilities which is part of the Campus of Care project next to Abbotsford Regional Hospital.