Saturday, April 9, 2011

One season ends, another begins

The Okotoks Oilers 2010/11 season came to an end on March 29th. after giving up a 3 to 1 series lead, only to lose to the Camrose Kodiaks in 7 games.

The Okotoks Dawgs season gets underway on June 1st, with 5 away games, then coming home to play the 2011 home opener June 9th.

Come out and support these local teams. They offer great entertainment and value for your dollar.

Visit the official websites

Okotoks Dawgs


Okotoks Oilers


Friday, September 10, 2010

Oilers’ head coach steps down on eve of opener

by John Barlow - Editor - Western Wheel

As the team was boarding the bus for their season opener in Camrose on Friday the Okotoks Junior A Oilers learned they would be doing so without their head coach.

On the eve of the 2010-2011 season Oiler head coach and general manager Garry VanHereweghe abruptly announced he was stepping down effective immediately and associate coach Chris Fuss will be the interim bench boss until a replacement can be found.

A tired looking VanHereweghe was sitting at his desk Friday afternoon as the team prepared to head to Camrose and said he was stepping aside for personal reasons and it was the best decision for himself, his family, the organization and, most importantly, the players.

“Now was the time,” said VanHereweghe who added a different personality was needed behind the bench.

“Obviously, I am not the right fit for the players’ expectations and the organization’s expectations,” said VanHereweghe. “They need someone who is a more suitable match for these players.”

He said the Oilers are an outstanding organization and with the players currently on the roster Okotoks will have a strong team this season. However, during an extremely competitive camp where rookies were pushing veterans for roster spots it became clear to VanHereweghe he was not the man to lead them this season.

“It was a difficult decision,” he said. “This is a great group of kids and it is tough to walk away, but they felt we were not going in the right direction.

“From the perspective of the team and where they want to go they have to be comfortable with the coach and if they do not fully trust the coach it is not going to work.”

VanHereweghe said stepping off the bench and retaining his GM duties was not an option either. He said he needed to severe the ties completely.

Okotoks is now actively searching for a new head coach and it is unlikely one will be found within the organization.

Fuss was offered the position and he agreed to take on the duties for the interim, but could not commit to being the head coach long-term.

“It would not be fair to the team or myself,” said Fuss who is entering his fourth season with the Oilers. “They need someone who is fully committed. This was not an easy decision.”

The other two assistants, Lyle Seitz and Rocky Zinger, will remain on the staff as well.

Fuss said with his commitments at home and with his own business he could not take on the head coach’s duties.

Fuss said having to find a new coach at this time of the season is difficult for the players, but the dressing room includes some strong leaders who will ensure the team focuses on hockey.

Oilers associate coach Chris Fuss is now the team’s interim head coach while the organization searches for Garry VanHereweghe’s replacement.
“We have strong leaders, strong character kids and they will find a way,” said Fuss. “We have a job to do.”

Oiler veteran Kyle Reynolds said the coaching change will not be a distraction for the players who will focus on what they need to do on the ice.

Reynolds, a third year Oiler, and many of his teammates went through a similar experience last season when VanHereweghe returned to the club to replace coach Dan MacDonald who was released just a month into the season.

“It is part of hockey, part of the game — guys come in and guys go out — we can’t worry about it,” said Reynolds of the coaching change. “We just need to focus on playing hockey.

“I am surprised, but if your heart is not in it then you shouldn’t stay. Garry was a great coach, and I think I can speak for all of the players when I say that. He is going to be missed.”

After a dismal 2-9 start under MacDonald last season VanHereweghe stepped in and guided the Oilers to a 38-18-1-3 record and the club’s first South Division title.

Reynolds said the team was able to rebound after a coaching change last season and he said that experience will be beneficial this time.

“We need to put this behind us and focus on getting a good start to the season and get some wins,” he said.

Oiler president Wayne Lauinger said the organization is disappointed to lose VanHereweghe, who was the team’s coach during their inaugural season in 2005-2006 until 2007-2008, but he added they must respect his decision.

“We hoped he would stay on in some capacity, but we have to move on without Garry VanHereweghe,” said Lauinger. “This organization will have the same principles and philosophies and we have been successful before because of people like Garry and we will continue to be successful.”

Lauinger admitted there is never an opportune time to lose your head coach and general manager, but he said it is better now when the team is still under construction.

He said there are no names on his wish list for a new head coach, but he said there will be no shortage of interest.

VanHereweghe agreed there will be interest as the Oilers are a coveted destination not only for players, but coaches as well.

“I don’t think I have had an opportunity to coach with a better organization than the Okotoks Oilers,” said VanHereweghe. “I will always support the Oilers.”

For prospective coaches, VanHereweghe said despite the turmoil to start the season they could not find a team with better potential than the Oilers.

“This is a good team and whoever walks in here is walking into a good situation.”

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Oilers training camp, week 2

by Bruce Campbell - Sports Editor - Western Wheel

A smaller camp has allowed the Okotoks Junior A Oilers’ coaching staff to have a stronger focus on the players trying to make the team’s 2010-2011 roster.

“We started with less than half the number of players at camp than we did last year,” said Okotoks Oilers coach Garry VanHereweghe. “I think with the smaller numbers the players can see the light at the end of the tunnel rather than when you have a 100 guys.”

The Oilers started camp on Aug. 24 and have played a pair of exhibition games with the Calgary Canucks. They lost 5-2 in Calgary on Friday and won in overtime 3-2 on Saturday night at the Centennial Arena in Okotoks.

However, wins and losses in the exhibition season are like campaign speeches — they don’t mean much but you have to decipher what’s going on to make a wise choice.

“If there is one area that I would like to see more of, it is intensity,” VanHereweghe said. “We have now played two games and an entire camp and we haven’t seen any altercations… We don’t condone that but at the same time we need to know that we are big and tough enough to look after matters as a team.. If there is one area we have to improve it’s in-your-face hockey.”

One spot where the Oilers are not lacking intensity is in net. VanHereweghe has a glut of goalies at camp and he indicated the team may have to carry three goalies at the start of the season.

Okotoks has goalies Sean Cahill and Michael Matyas returning from last year’s South Division championship team, and rookies Jared D’Amico and Riley Parker from the Notre Dame Hounds, who won the Canadian Midget AAA championship last year are also in camp.

Goalie Tyler Hughes, who played for the Okotoks Midget AA Oilers last season was released despite a good outing at camp and a solid performance in allowing one goal in 30 minutes of play in the Oilers’ 3-2 victory Saturday.

Tyler came into a tough situation and he didn’t play his way off the team,” VanHereweghe said. “It was a numbers thing and us knowing we had two returning goalies and others in the mix. He responded very well.”

He said Hughes is likely going to Melville to try out for the Millionaires of the Saskatchewan Junior A Hockey League.

VanHereweghe said the 16-year-old D’Amico might have had the most impressive camp with winning five of the six intra-squad games for which he was in net.

The Oilers have 13 veterans returning from last year’s roster and they are being pushed by a strong group of 17-year–old players. However, there’s been no hostility towards the young guys.

“One thing I have been impressed with is the leadership of the vets and helping the younger kids,” VanHereweghe said. “I think the leadership and direction among the guys at camp is one of the best I have ever seen in my Junior A career.”

VanHereweghe said returning Oiler Nolan Huysmans has been impressive in camp.

“The kid has shown up and has been a front-runner in main camp and carried that into the exhibition game when he scored our first goal (against the Canucks) Saturday,” VanHereweghe said. “He is more physical and brought character and leadership.”

The Oilers must have their roster trimmed to 25 players by Dec. 1. However, VanHereweghe said he expects to have his numbers down to approximately 23 players by mid December.

The Oilers’ first regular season game is Sept. 10 when they travel to Camrose to take on the Kodiaks.

Okotoks’ home opener is Friday Sept. 17 when the St. Albert Steel come to the Centennial Arena at 7 p.m.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Oilers name Captains for the 2010/11 season

by Bruce Campbell - Sports Editor - The Western Wheel

Alberta Junior A Hockey referees won’t have to take a second glance to see which of the two Okotoks Junior A Oilers captains are wearing the C for a particular game.
All they have to do is listen.

One captain, Jeff Barrett, doesn’t say much while the other, Ben Gamache, can talk like Calgary Stampede track announcer Les McIntyre after drinking a pot of coffee.

“Ben has a little more rah, rah in him while I am a little more quiet,” Barrett said with a laugh. “I have the ability to speak up when I have to. I think the two of us will make a really good team together as captains.”

Head coach Garry VanHereweghe and the Oilers’ coaching staff selected Barrett and Gamache as captains last June. The pair will work similar to how it was done last year when Chris Duszynski and Brandon Hoogenboom shared the captaincy and led the team to their first South Division title in the Alberta Junior Hockey League.

The selection left the 19-year-old Gamache speechless, well, for a while anyway.

“I didn’t expect it,” Gamache said. “I thought I would have to work my way up the ranks. We have a lot of quality 20-year-olds coming back. ”

His job will to keep all the players up and focused.

“I like to talk positive on and off the ice and try to step up and do what it takes to make the team successful,” he said.

It’s not the first time Gamache has worn a “C”. He was the captain of the Notre Dame Hounds when they won the Midget AAA national championship in 2009.

Former champions are the kind of people VanHereweghe wants in the dressing room.

“You want the guys who have won before and provide that kind of leadership on the team,” VanHereweghe said.

The trend is continuing because the captain of the 2010 national champion Hounds, Scott Bolland, is also at the Oilers camp.

Gamache played in 58 games last season with the Oilers and contributed 11 goals and 19 assists. Although he was one of the smaller Oilers at five-foot-seven and 185 pounds, the feisty Gamache had 89 minutes in penalties. He shone in the Oilers’ opening round of the playoffs when he had nine points in six games against the Canmore Eagles.

However, he was injured in the Oilers’ loss in five games to the Fort McMurray Oil Barons in the league’s semifinal series.

“It was a clean hit, that’s just part of hockey,” he said of his injury.

Barrett missed 29 games last season. Though it was frustrating, he said watching from the stands might have helped him prepare for becoming a captain.

“I would come into the dressing room and tell the boys what I saw,” Barrett said. “I sat and watched 30 plus games and you see things different than when you are in the game and on the bench.”

When Barrett got back from his injury he was put on a line with Derek Rodwell and Duszynski. The big line not only put the puck in the net, but also knocked down plenty of bodies.

The six-foot-two, 200-pound Barrett is entering his third year with the Oilers. Last season he finished seventh on the team in scoring with 14 goals and 21 assists in just 31 games.

Barrett said watching Duszynski and Hoogenboom share the captaincy proved the system works.

“If there is an issue with one of the captains there is always someone there to back him up,” said the 20-year-old Barrett. “There’s also two points of view. Plus one game you might be wearing an A and the next game you are wearing a C. So it creates more cohesiveness with the team.”

It’s important to remember the C not only stands for captain but also class. The captains are just members of the team.

“It’s crucial that you don’t start thinking you are the big cheese,” Barrett said. “You are just one of the guys. If someone asks you to do something you jump right to attention and vice-versa. In the dressing room everyone is at the same level.”

The captain also acts as a liaison at times between the players, VanHereweghe and the coaching staff. That’s a two-way street though. If there’s a problem it is also the captain’s job to maybe knock on the coach’s door and say: “Hey Garry, there’s a tiny, tiny chance you might be wrong.”

“If there’s some issues going on, you have to deal with it,” Barrett said. “Garry’s got a great open-door policy, and he’s open to do all sorts of different ideas.”

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Some oddities

This years edition of the WMBL Okotoks Dawgs saw a couple of rare plays in the field. Sure, there were the numerous double plays, home runs, arguments and ejections, but there were also 2 rare plays you don't see in baseball too often.

Unfortunatley, both of the plays went AGAINST the Okotoks Dawgs.

We saw a rare grand slam homerun for the visitors one night and it was on a night where the hometown Dawgs just couldn't come back for the win.

The second rarity was a triple play. With runners on first and second and no one out, the at bat Dawgs player belted a low fly ball that was immediately caught by the visiting teams second baseman for out one, then tagged the second base for out two, then whizzed the ball to first base for out three.

Yep, the regular season was over in a bat of an eyelash. Now it's on with the real season, the playoffs.

Go Dawgs Go.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Now it feels like baseball.

So our holidays are over and the sun is out. Kind of reminds us of summer. Oh, ya, it IS summer and the boys are a dozen games into this season. The ballpark still buzzes with every pitch so it must be on.

The new uniforms are just OK, but I like the old ones better. The O on the ballcaps don't bring excitement to me neither. But the team on the field is what it's all about and they look good.

Lets keep packing the ballpark. It's a great atmosphere at Seamans Stadium in Okotoks. Now we just need the weather to co-operate. We burnt up on a Sunday afternoon game, then froze a couple of nights later. Gotta love Southern Alberta weather.

So Go Dawgs Go, and Come Fans Come to a great night of baseball entertain. This is a class organization.