The Chilliwack Chiefs have found the man who will replace Harvey Smyl as the head coach and general.
His name is Jason Tatarnic.
Those who follow the national junior A scene closely may recognize that name. For eight years Tatarnic was the hockey boss with the Woodstock Slammers of the Maritime Junior Hockey League. During his tenure, the team won three Kent Cups as league champion. Tatarnic led the Slammers to the Royal Bank Cup during the 2011-12 season, finishing as runner-up to the juggernaut Penticton Vees.
He took last year off after the Slammers ownership changed hands.
“He has a vast network of contacts within junior hockey, and the university and collegiate system throughout the United States and Canada,” said team president Glen Ringdal. “Virtually every level of hockey in North America, really. He’s well equipped for the teaching function, and he has a high reputation for community involvement, which is vital.”
Ringdal started with 40 candidates to sift through, quickly whittling the list down to 12.
“We were looking for people with relevant coaching experience, and some proven record as a coach,” Ringdal noted. “We were also looking for some evidence that the candidate was a teacher capable of not only developing hockey players but also young men. After we got the list down to 12 the entire ownership group got involved and honed it down to the final three.”
The last candidates standing were interviewed Thursday morning — Tatarnic in person and the other two via Skype.
When Ringdal sat down one final time with the ownership group, he was confident he’d found the right guy.
“I asked them all what their team would look like, what words they’d use to describe the team,” Ringdal said. “I want high tempo. I want exciting. Defence is mandatory, and I’d rather we win 3-1 than 8-6. But I don’t want 2-0 games. I want tough, strong and disciplined hockey with enough excitement for the fans.”
Tatarnic’s vision is aligned.
“After they get across the red line I give my players the freedom to be creative and spontaneous,” he said. “I don’t want them to be robots. I want them to use their instincts. But from the blue line back they’ll be structured.”
The 41 year old father of three comes to Chilliwack with his wife and three children, ages nine, seven and five.
“The big thing will be getting the family situated, deciding what school they’ll go to and what part of the community we’ll live in,” he said. “For the little ones this isn’t a huge deal, but for our oldest, she’s made some friends and Woodstock is the only home she’s ever known. So the initial news has been a big shocking, but she’s already said she wants to get here before the summer starts and get signed up for some activities.”
Tatarnic was the only hire Thursday, leaving the Chiefs still searching for an assistant coach.
Ringdal said Tatarnic will lead the way, with input from himself and ownership.
“He’ll largely be responsible, and he has some very specific ideas on that, but we’ll consult,” Ringdal noted. “It’s extremely important that we know what that relationship will be. We need singularity of thought. It’s OK to have opposing viewpoints, but they both need to be coming from the same place with complementary capabilities.”
Read more about Tatarnic in next Wednesday’s Progress sports section.