Clouston Era Begins in the Kootenays

By Jeff Bromley

When Cory Clouston joined the Kootenay ICE as an assistant coach prior to the 1999-2000 season he had many goals. Winning a championship, helping players strive to be their best and move onto the next level, among many others. On the top of that list however was to become head coach when Ryan McGill had moved on. On Tuesday of this week that goal had been realized and now the task of carrying on a winning tradition forged over the club’s first six years of existence falls to him.

It’s a responsibility Clouston takes with unbridled enthusiasm. “It’s a big honor for me,” said Clouston. “I’m excited and looking forward to the upcoming season.”

Clouston, 32, following a successful playing career at the University of Alberta started his coaching experience with an assistant gig in Powell River of the BCHL in 1994. The four seasons that followed were spent as both head coach and G.M. of the AJHL’s Grande Prairie Storm before coming to Cranbrook. Clouston knows that the task of filling the shoes of his former boss will be a daunting one, especially given the cyclical nature of junior hockey and the undoubted valley the ICE will start to descend in the coming seasons. Still, Clouston is confident in the club’s personnel. “There’s no doubt the roster’s going to be a lot younger this year,” said Clouston. “When you lose guys like Weller, Boxma and Fischer as twenty-yr-olds and we’re going to lose probably four or five guys on top of those guys, the team’s going to be a lot different. But I still think we’re going to be strong and some of our younger guys are going to play a lot bigger roles with a big learning curve. When you’ve got a young team, there’s going to be a lot more improvement as the season goes on.”

“We feel as an organization that we’re very confident and comfortable with our young core of players. We felt we had another strong draft this year and when you look at our ’85 and ’86-born hockey players, there’s some exceptional talent.

“My goals don’t change. When I was an assistant coach, my goal was to get these players to the next level. To help develop these players both on and off the ice and help them become quality citizens and, in the process, win a championship. My goal doesn’t change but my role does.”

The search for the replacement to Ryan McGill never did go beyond the doors of the ICE offices. In fact, Clouston was decided upon as soon as McGill announced he was leaving and realistically, G.M. Jeff Chynoweth never considered anyone else. “There was actually no decision making,” offered Chynoweth of the choice to lead the club in the post-Ryan McGill era. “We knew last week but in fairness to Ryan, it was his day. Today is Cory Clouston’s, we knew that Cory was our guy. He was our first and only choice.”

Chynoweth admits that replacing McGill won’t be easy but if anyone, the best choice has to be the man who studied under for the past three seasons. “I think that the players know what Cory’s about and I think that’s important. They don’t know him as a head guy but he’ll create his own identity and put his own stamp on the team. Cory is a very hard-working, diligent man,” said Chynoweth. “He had great success when he was in Tier II in Grande Prairie and it’s a natural progression for him to be the head coach of this hockey club. He knows what we’re about and he’s been a part of what we’ve accomplished. You couldn’t have a better successor to Ryan McGill than Cory Clouston.”

Quick Hits – The July long-weekend wasn’t without its share of tragedy for a Kamloops family and the ICE organization as a list player died suddenly. Allan Price, a 6’5″, 230lb defensemen out of the Kamloops ‘AA’ Bantam was pronounced dead on arrival of Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops Sunday night. The 16-yr-old, multi-sport athlete had returned from his Lacrosse match in Kelowna the night before and mentioned being tired to his parents, who are both R.C.M.P. officers, before going to bed. The next day while helping his mother in the yard Price collapsed and couldn’t be revived despite C.P.R. efforts by his mother. “I was told by Roy (Stasiuk, ICE Assistant G.M.) just last night,” said Chynoweth. “For a great kid such as this to be taken while not even in the prime of his life is such a tragedy. It’s a tragic turn of events and our thoughts and prayers are with the Price family in their time of need.” Kootenay had listed Price back in October of 2001 after Portland had taken him off their protected list

. . . The search for an assistant coach to replace both Clouston and the departed Colin Patterson has now begun in earnest. The ICE G.M. admitted that the resumes are now piling up in the Kootenay offices but both he and Clouston probably won’t announce any hiring(s) for at least a few weeks . . . For those who noticed: Cory Clouston did not coach the Sherwood Park Crusaders (AJHL) before coming to the ICE as stated in a story Monday. Clouston, besides being coach and G.M. of the Grande Prairie Storm from ’95-’99, did play for the Crusaders from 1986-89 and garnered The Unsung Hero Award for the 1986-87 season

. . . The Tri-Cities Americans announced last week that Cranbrook native Jim Hiller has been hired as an assistant coach for the 2002-03 season. Hiller, a graduate of the University of Northern Michigan where played on a line with Kimberley’s Scott Beattie and NHLer Dallas Drake, played with the L.A. Kings and the Detroit Red Wings in the mid-’90’s before finishing off his playing career in Europe last season. Hiller joins newly named Ams head coach Shaun Clouston who also happens to be Cory’s older brother.