Bandits hire new head coach


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June 9, 2016 12:00 AM

Brad Cruikshank (centre), was named the new head coach of the Lloydminster Bandits junior B hockey club last week by team general manager Greg Buchanan (left) and team president Bart Prochera (right). Cruikshank is the third Bandits head coach in the past four years.

The Lloydminster Classic Oilfield Bandits wanted a fresh atmosphere heading into next season, so last week they announced that Brad Cruikshank was hired as the teams new head coach.
Cruikshank spent last season as the assistant coach of the Lloydminster Bobcats midget AAA team and helped guide the team to their first Telus Cup appearance. Now he is tasked with turning the Bandits ship around and get Lloydminster back to their winning tradition of hockey.
“Especially at this level you got to be careful, it’s junior B, it’s almost like senior (where) you got guys who are going to school, guys who are working, (so) you got to have fun, you have to enjoy coming to the rink,” said Cruikshank.
“As much as you want to win, and we are going to want to win, you got to keep it light and let these guys enjoy it.”
The change sees the Bandits parting ways with former head coach Adam Andrew, who in two years with the Bandits amassed a 43-43-6 record during the regular season, while getting the Bandits to the playoffs in both years in the North Eastern Alberta Junior Hockey League.
But the atmosphere around the team seemed to go a different direction, which is why general manager Greg Buchanan thought it was time to make a switch, even after signing Andrew to a new three-year deal before the start of last season.
“At times last season, it wasn’t fun,” said Buchanan. “It’s going to be fun again. Brad’s attitude and just the way he approaches the game as a coach and when he did as a player, I think it is going to rub off on our guys.”
Cruikshank played plenty of hockey before stepping behind the bench, spending time in the Western Hockey League and East Coast Hockey League before heading to Europe to play in the Elite Ice Hockey League, a professional league in the United Kingdom.
There he played for the Basingstoke Bisons, Sheffield Steelers and Coventry Blaze before returning home, where he eventually played with the Lloydminster Border Kings, a team Buchanan has been involved with in the past.
He was a top of the list candidate for the job, and while midget Bobcats head coach Travis Clayton moved on to the junior A Bobcats, Buchanan said Cruikshank should get plenty of credit for the role he played on the team and helping to get them a Alberta championship and Telus Cup appearance.
“Brad played a big role in that team and as much as he was an assistant coach, his role was to get that team ready every game and make adjustments throughout the game,” said Buchanan.
“He did a fantastic job of it and after talking to many people in that organization and talking to Brad, it was a no brainer for us.”
While it is still early in the off-season, Cruikshank said he will be looking for a mix of players next season, with some competitiveness on the team with players pushing each other, while at the same time, enjoying the game at the junior B level.
With his experience playing, Cruikshank brings plenty of different styles to the mix, something he hopes to implement with the Bandits and hopefully, return the team back to the winning culture they used to have.
“I’ve definitely learned a lot over the years and I always tried to pick up everything I did,” said Cruikshank. “Especially playing in Europe those past six years, I was a little more older, more mature, so I helped a couple coaches over there as a player/assistant role. Hopefully I can bring some of that experience back here and maybe tweak things a little bit and maybe turn this ship around.”
Cruikshank’s contract is a two year agreement with an option for a third year.
The Bandits last appeared in the NEAJBHL final back in 2011, losing to the Cole Lake Ice. Between 1991 and 2010, Lloydminster won 14 of the leagues 20 championships, as well the 2009 Russ Barnes Trophy as the Alberta junior B provincial championship. That same year they earned a bronze medal at the Keystone Cup, the western Canadian junior B championship.

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