As a minor league defenceman, John Van Horlick made stops in American cities like Portland, Charlotte, Salt Lake City, Springfield and Omaha.
As a coach, the 69-year-old rancher is more than happy being in a small Canadian town. He was last week announced by owner Dean Keller as the new head coach of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League North Okanagan Knights of Armstrong.
“I coached Major Midget in Nanaimo last year and while I was ranching in Penticton, I coached minor hockey off and on for years,” said Van Horlick. “I coached Midget in Princeton when my daughter, Kaci, was living there. Dallas (Keller) is GM and Jacob (Keller) is our trainer. They’re both great guys, as is Dean. I feel really lucky to be working for these guys. We’re looking to have a lot of fun.”
Van Horlick coached the Langley Lords of the B.C. Junior League in 1977-78 before guiding the Williams Lake Mustangs of the Peace Cariboo Junior League in 1986-87 and then the Western League New Westminster Bruins in 1987-88.
“I’ve known (Viper head coach Ferner) Mark forever and we’re going to work closely with the Vipers. I want to invite all the area Midgets to our training camp. We want to try and use as many local kids as possible. Feel free to call me (1-250-460-2277) and come to camp.”
Van Horlick spent years with the BCHL Victoria Cougars from 1967-69 before turning pro with the ECHL Charlotte Checkers. He spent seven years in the minors and got in two games with the WHA’s Toronto Toros.
“We won the BCHL title in 1967 with the final game in Penticton. We had pretty good goaltending with Ron Grahame and Ed Forslund (Vernon product).”
Van Horlick, who runs his ranch with son, Matt, 41, will rely on Matt for help coaching the Knights.
“Matt can still play the game and he’s going to give me a hand. He played four years in the Western League and then the minors.”
John has numerous relatives in the North Okanagan and is stoked to get involved. The Knights’ camp goes Aug. 17-19 at Nor-Val Sports Centre. The Knights open the 52nd KIJHL season Sept. 7 in Nelson versus the Leafs.