Wednesday, August 1, 2007

I'm Glad Marc Habscheid Isn't Coming to Kelowna...

Why would I say that?
Before you get too excited with that absurd statement, let me explain.
When I first got the job as the Kelowna Rockets play-by-play caller in the summer of 2000, I knew little about the organization. I knew that Lorne Frey, a former Swift Current Bronco coach was the teams head scout, and that Marc Habscheid, the teams coach, hailed from my hometown of Swift Current. I was pleased to see Habby when I went down to the arena to meet with GM Bruce
Hamilton the day I interviewed. I didn't know Bruce very well, but got a quick introduction that the man can be intimidating. Let's just say my nerves were rattled after our brief 30 minute conversation. Hamilton suggested I go down to see coach Habscheid at the dressing room, and I will admit it was great to see a familiar face.
Growing up in Swift Current, I knew of Marc Habscheid. Heck he was an NHL player, and was the reason why a very young Wayne Gretzky came to Halls Sporting Goods in downtown Swift Current for a autograph session when I was a teenager. I was there as a wide-eyed onlooker with by camera in hand. I didn't know Marc personally growing up though, as he is 5 years older than I am. It may not sound like a big age difference now, but when you are 15 and he's 20, the age gap is a wide one. Plus he left home at a young age to pursue hockey, so some of what I knew about Habscheid was from what I heard on radio, or read in the newspaper.
Yet in Kelowna, Habby often took me under his wing in my early time in the Rockets organization, and the common bond of being from the same neck of the woods only helped our relationship. When I was doing something that wasn't making Habscheid happy, or that of the teams GM, Habscheid let me know about it. Sometime he was abrupt, other times he took me calmly aside. I appreciated that, and honestly appreciate it more now that I look back on our coach/broadcaster relationship. I see now that he had my best interest at heart. Did Habschied have a part in getting me the job in Kelowna? He never said he didn't, yet he never said he did. I like to think he played a part in landing me the job in K-Town, a gesture I am grateful for.
You could say Marc Habscheid and I had a love/hate relationship. I loved him, and he hated me! All joking side, I am glad Habschied isn't returning to coach the Rockets for one simply reason. I want to remember him, like hockey fans in the Okanagan remember him, as the best coach the Kelowna Rockets organization has ever known!
I still have a photo at my office of Habscheid holding the Memorial Cup in 2004, with a great big smile on his face. It's signed by Habscheid with the saying - "My Speedy Creek Brother, Thanks for Everything". He may be from small town Saskatchewan, but he's class all the way.
In a sense it would be nice to see him back behind the Rockets bench, in an attempt to rekindle the excitement that the franchise enjoyed under Habscheid's tutelage. Yet it's nice to remember the good old days, a time when he was literally declared a hero in the eyes of hockey fans in these parts.
It's that head coach hero status that remains alive today, three years after his departure.

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