Garry VanHereweghe didn’t take long to adjust to his new role as head coach and general manager of the Okotoks Oilers — but, frankly, he had no choice.
After the Alberta Junior Hockey League club announced the firing of former head coach and general manager Dan MacDonald on Monday, VanHereweghe immediately took over. He had spent two years at the club’s helm from 2005-07 and was put to work again Monday evening as the Oilers paid a visit to the Calgary Canucks at the Max Bell Centre.
“For whatever reason, the chemistry just wasn’t there between the players and the team,” said VanHereweghe, who worked as the Oilers’ director of player personnel before leaving to work a security position on a U.S. cruise line. “If you look back at Dan’s last two seasons, certainly you’d have to say they were successful. Second place finish and certainly very high points in both seasons. Well, well above the .500 record.
“You have to look at where they’re at (now) . . . obviously, there will be some tinkering done.”
In two seasons with the Oilers, MacDonald, hired in the summer of 2007, led the team to an 84-30-3-7 regular-season record and to the post-season twice. In 2008, the group was eliminated in the first round by the Drumheller Dragons; 2009 saw the Oilers bow to the Olds Grizzlies in the second round. Heading into Monday’s game, the group was 3-6 — second last in the AJHL’s south division ahead of the Calgary Royals (1-7).
“This has been a very difficult decision for the Oilers’ board of directors, but it was felt that the hockey club was not progressing and the change was necessary,” said Oilers president Wayne Lauinger. “Dan has worked extremely hard during his tenure with the Oilers and has positively affected the lives of many aspiring hockey players.”