If the Lloydminster Bobcats can get into the playoff rounds on the weekend, Garry VanHereweghe’s coaching career will extend at least one game.
He would prefer it extend two and be capped off with a Royal Bank Cup victory celebration.
The coach of the Bobcats for the past three seasons will step away from the bench at the conclusion of the RBC Cup tournament, ending a long coaching career that saw him win an RBC Cup back in 2001 with the Camrose Kodiaks before heading to the Border City for a stint with the Bobcats.
But now it’s time to step away from the bench and retire with his wife to their home in Okotoks and another home they own in Montana. But it’s hard to take the hockey out of VanHereweghe, who said that he would be willing to remain linked to the Bobcats in the future as a scout, director of player personnel, or any position the team could use him in, as Lloydminster has had a lasting impression on him and his future.
“I considered another team in the Alberta Junior Hockey League, but I’ll be honest, after being in Lloydminster for the past few years and the success of the community, I can honestly say I have never coached in a situation that has been as good, or given me the opportunity that Lloydminster has,” said VanHereweghe.
“Why would you move forward when you would get into a situation where it probably wouldn’t be as good. I’d like to retire on a good note and a positive experience like I’ve had in Lloydminster. And there would be no better way to cap it than winning the RBC Cup.”
The thought of coaching his final games at the RBC Cup got him thinking about the future and if he was ready to step away from the bench, so much so that VanHereweghe was close to taking the vacant coaching job left in Drayton Valley. But after plenty of thought and consideration, it didn’t seem like the right move, instead he decided that another active role with the Bobcats would be a better move.
“If I can go to pasture and still keep my hand in hockey a little bit, the Lloydminster Bobcats are where I’d want to be,” said VanHereweghe.
VanHereweghe joked that he is the only coach on the ice wearing a helmet because he isn’t quite quick enough with the young players to get out of the way, even taking a few hits himself during practice. And while he will step away from behind the bench, the impact of VanHereweghe as the team’s coach and general manager for the past three seasons has helped to lift the team out of the basement of the AJHL North Division and, along with co-coach Gord Thibodeau, turn the Bobcats into a successful franchise.
Since joining the team in 2013, Lloydminster has not missed the playoffs, making it to at least the second round each year, while compiling a record of 107-57-16.
“Everyone has stood behind this team and that’s what I found more than any other team I’ve been with,” said VanHereweghe. “I’ve found Lloydminster just doesn’t have any weak areas, from financial support, community support, fan support. It’s been tremendous. If I can stay here and continue to wear that Bobcat hat one way or another, that would be great.”