Tuesday, 24 May 2016

Rick Swan nominated as CJHL Coach of the Year

For the Bonnyville Nouvelle.

Pontiacs head coach Rick Swan (top left) is up for the title of CJHL Coach of the Year.
File Photo
For a man in the running to be declared one of the best coaches in junior hockey, Rick Swan is incredibly humble.

“I really appreciate being a part of this organization,” said Swan, downplaying his own contributions.
Swan has been nominated for the CJHL Coach of the Year Award. He claims that he only gets the credit because he has to make the tough decisions and that the glory should be reserved for the team as a whole.

“We have exceptional first-rate staff with Larry Draper, as well as assistant coaches Mark Jensen and Craig Cuthbert. These are guys that put in overtime hours for part-time pay or no pay at all, but they have a passion to make sure that our players come in and we do a good job developing them,” commented Swan. “As coaches we’re only as good as our players.”

The retired policeman turned hockey coach has been running the Bonnyville Pontiacs for three years. In that time, the team has grown into a major contender in the AJHL, attending the playoffs all three years, as well as sending 17 players to major colleges around the continent. This last season the Pontiacs set a franchise record for most wins and most points in a single season.

Swan was already declared the 2015-2016 AJHL Coach of the Year – a title he credits his own mentor Chad Mercier with more than his own efforts. However, he is far more excited about the opportunities his players are getting from his work than his own accolades.

Pontiac forward Bobby McMann, who won the league MVP this year, will be attending Colgate University in New York. Locally born 17-year-old Brinson Pasichnuk, is off to Arizona State after being declared the Most Outstanding Defenceman of the year.

“Their character is off the charts,” praised Swan. “I believe both kids will play professional hockey one day because of their self-driven desire to become the best that they can.”

Swan may be a big fan of sharing the spotlight as much as possible, but when he begins to talk about his coaching philosophy it becomes quite clear why the Pontiacs have done so well under his watch.

“It’s about treating players as professionals. If we’re not doing something on a daily basis that’s improving our players, organization or staff, then we’re wasting everybody’s time,” said Swan. “It’s about attention and purpose in everything we do, both as players and as human beings. If we can develop good people, then we’ll attract good people. If you have good people, then you’ll have a good team.”

In spite of coaching the Pontiacs being a full-time, 12-hour day job, Swan maintains his love for the game makes it feel more like play than work.

“This profession doesn’t seem like a job. You come to work every day looking forward to working with young athletes to help them exceed their expectations and what they thought was possible,” exclaimed Swan. “It just feels like fun to be able to do this every single day.”

Swan conceded that the recognition of getting nominated is a nice pat on the back, but he’s more interested in how it will help the Pontiacs than himself.

“It’s humbling, but more importantly it’s a great reflection on our organization,” added Swan. “Reputation helps with things like recruiting and it helps with exposure to get players up to the next level.”

Swan added he’s far more focused on preparing for the Pontiacs spring camp starting May 27.

“We’ve got 120 players from across North America. Colorado, Minnesota, California, Saskatchewan, British Columbia and Alberta,” said Swan. “It’s a real reflection about where the organization is going.”

The winner of the CJHL coach of the year award will be selected May 24.

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