After four seasons as an assistant coach with the Western Hockey League’s Kelowna Rockets, Dan Lambert has worked his way onto Hockey Canada’s coaching map.
The 43-year-old Lambert was named this week as the head coach of Team West for the 2014 edition of the World Under 17 Challenge in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia.
Consisting of players from Manitoba and Saskatchewan, Team West is one of five regional teams from Canada who are joined each year by five international teams at the annual post-Christmas tournament.
Lambert, a native of St. Boniface, Man., is thrilled to be getting his first assignment from Hockey Canada.
“The experience of working with Hockey Canada is the biggest reason I wanted to do this,” Lambert said. “You get access to a lot of their coaching philosophies, you get some insights into preparation and so many other important aspects of coaching. Hopefully it will allow me to be a better assistant coach with Kelowna and one day help me be a head coach somewhere.”
An offensively-gifted defenceman, Lambert was a standout as a player in major junior in Swift Current, and also played 10 seasons in Germany.
Twenty-seven years ago, in 1986, Lambert played for Team Western in a three-game series against the Russians.
Lambert sees international events like the U17 Challenge as a great opportunity for both coaches and players.
“It’s a great situation for these young men, for a lot of them it’s their first opportunity to represent their region and their country in an international competition. It’s the same for coaches like me who are being exposed to this for the first time.”
Despite losing his right-hand man for the better part of two weeks in the middle of the WHL season, Rockets’ head coach Ryan Huska is excited for Lambert.
“I think it’s a great step for him for sure, he’s very deserving of the opportunity,” said Huska, who twice served as an assistant with Canada’s national junior team. “Dan’s an unreal communicator. He’s done great things with our players and I’m sure he’ll do a great job in this role.”
Among the challenges for Lambert as head coach of Team West will be adjusting to the short time-frame of the event, with as many as six games being played over an eight-day period.
“It’s an intense time, a lot of coaching and a lot of hockey in pretty short span,” Lambert added. “It’ll be a good learning experience for everyone involved.”
The first order of business for Lambert is attending a Hockey Canada coach’s conference this week in Calgary which, coincidentally, will feature Rockets’ head coach Ryan Huska.
Then in August, Lambert will travel to Portage la Prairie, Man., for the Team West evaluation camp.
Lambert will be assisted by Regina Pats’ assistant Josh Dixon and North Battleford North Stars’ coach Kevin Hasselberg.
The World U17 Challenge will be held Dec. 28, 2013 to Jan. 5, 2014 in Cape Breton.