The Salmon Arm Silverbacks new head coach Scott Atkinson will draw on experience as a university and sports-focused high school coach as he leads the team into the coming season.
Although British Columbia Hockey League is not an age group he has coached before, Atkinson beleives he is up to the challenge.
“I understand what these guys are like once they’ve grown into that after-midget, pre-university time, I know what they’re like. I just haven’t coached them in a game,” he said
“In a way it’s kind of an interesting puzzle for me but also I think I have a good understanding of before and after so connecting those dots shouldn’t be too much of a challenge, I think I can do it,” he said.
Atkinson comes to the Silverbacks from the Edge School for Athletes in Calgary, where he has been head coach for the school’s hockey program since 2009.
With Atkinson behind the bench, the team from the Edge School recorded an impressive .801 winning percentage.
Before coaching there, Atkinson had a successful career coaching university hockey at both the University of Calgary and Mount Royal University.
Atkinson led the Mount Royal University Cougars to six Alberta College Conference gold medals as well as two silvers and two bronzes.
In addition, Mount Royal won the Canadian College Athletic Association gold medal five times under Atkinson’s direction.
Following his 10 years coaching for Mount Royal, Atkinson coached the University of Calgary men’s hockey team to seven consecutive Canada West semi-final appearances.
Atkinson sees coaching for the Edge School and university as a good mixture of experience for coaching in the BCHL as it has given him experience with both older and younger age groups.
“I’ve kind of bracketed them, I know exactly what a university coach is looking for and now I know in the last eight years, I know more about what a kid looks like as an 18-year-old, as a 16-year-old as a 17-year-old,” he said.
One difference Atkinson noted is that getting a spot on a university team is still a goal for BCHL players.
“Here they’re gravitating toward university and the NCAA.”
While some BCHL players have played for Western Hockey League teams, Atkinson’s university teams were comprised almost entirely of former WHL players. He said of the 28-man roster at the University of Calgary, 26 would usually be five-year WHL players.
His time as a university coach gave Atkinson experience working with elite players, including World Junior silver medalist and former NHL player Jared Aulin.
Atkinson will have some familiar faces on the ice to help get him acquainted with the rest of the team. He coached Silverbacks players Austin Chorney, Max Wutzke and Akito Hirose at the Edge School.
“The guys that I know are very good players,” he said.
Atkinson thinks the players he has coached before will help with the coaching transition.
“In some ways it probably calms the waters a little bit with some of the other players because any time there’s change, guys are concerned. So they know what I’m like and they can tell the other players from a player’s perspective, what to expect,” he said.
The Silverbacks’ main camp doesn’t begin until August 21 but Atkinson says he has reached out to the team’s entire roster by phone in order to introduce himself and make sure there is an open channel of communication if the players have any questions.
Atkinson is no stranger to the Shuswap; Salmon Arm has been a favourite holiday destination for him and his wife.
“I love the place,” he said
“My wife and I have always come here for summertimes so we’re very keen to join the community.”
Atkinson said he is confident in the team’s chances for the upcoming season.
“Troy (Mick) and Brooks (Christensen) think we’re going to have a good team and I have no reason to challenge that.”