Former St. Thomas student and hockey player Pat Powers is getting a shot at his dream.
“I always made it known to my friends that I kept in touch with here that it was a goal of mine to come back to Fredericton. When the opportunity came up, I jumped at it,” Powers said.
Powers was hired following the resignation of previous coach Troy Ryan in the offseason. Athletics Director Mike Eagles said Ryan worked hard during his time at STU.
“We really appreciated all the work [Ryan] put into the program here. He decided to move on, and that’s just about the end of it,” he said.
Powers, a native of St. Thomas, Ont., graduated from STU in 1999. He said he loved his time at the school, which was a major factor in his decision.
He also applied when the position was vacant two years ago. Eagles said Ryan was the more qualified candidate at that time. Powers believes it just wasn’t meant to be then.
“Last time I applied my wife was pregnant and I was studying for my master’s degree in education at Western while also working as the assistant coach. It was a very busy time. This time around, everything just sort of fell into place.”
Given the team’s record for the past few seasons, criteria was different from the last head coach search. This time, Eagles looked for someone who had a relationship with the school.
“I felt really strongly about the connection with St. Thomas. It was a slam dunk on both sides. [Powers] was the strongest candidate, and his history with St. Thomas is a bonus because he already knows the school,” Eagles said.
Powers was assistant coach of Western’s men’s hockey team for four years. During his fifth year, head coach Carl Singer took a leave of absence. Powers got the job and some valuable experience.
“Once I had the head coaching opportunity at Western, I realized this was something I could really be successful at.”
During his time at Western the team went to three national championships. They played in two of the games but never took home the grand prize.
Powers said communication is key to being successful, with both current and future players. He was a student athlete and understands the experience.
“When I’m talking to players, I can draw on what it was like to be a young person relocating to this campus,” Powers said.
“A lot of the players are in the same situation that I was.”
He said his coaching techniques focus on patience and flexibility. He said it’s important to treat each player individually, because they all come to STU with different backgrounds and expectations.
Eagles believes Powers is already turning the program around.
“[Powers has] made great strides, coming to the school when he did. The things he’s done have been very positive. We’re extremely happy with the work that he’s done since he’s been here.”
The ultimate goal for Powers is a CIS championship, but he said it will take time. He said the most important goals for the upcoming season are improving the won-lost record and hopefully making the playoffs.
But, given he doesn’t have his first season under his belt, Powers is already thinking about how he wants to leave the program.
“I want this to become a program that almost runs itself,” Powers said.
“I just hope that when I leave here, it’s a more successful program than when I came. When I do leave, I don’t want it to miss a beat.”
The coaching change marks a new beginning for the men’s hockey team. Eagles thinks team relations are already improving.
“The team is very excited. There’s a real atmosphere around the players. They’re buzzing, and we’re all very pleased about that.”
This is an updated story. The team went to three national championships and played in two of the games, but never took home the grand prize. Incorrect information appeared in the earlier online and print version of this story.