It’s strange strolling into the Chilliwack Chiefs locker room and not seeing Kyle Adams there, watching video clips on a laptop computer and it will be downright bizarre this fall looking at a Chiefs bench that includes head coach Jason Tatarnic and does not include Adams.
But the man who played Robin to Tatarnic’s Batman for so many years has moved on.
Adams was officially announced as the new head coach of the Alberta Hockey League’s Drayton Valley Thunder on Tuesday, ending a coaching partership that has stretched from coast to coast.
Adams was Tatarnic’s right hand man with the Maritime Hockey League’s Woodstock Slammers when that team advanced to the Royal Bank Cup final in 2012, and Adams followed Coach T west when he took over the Chiefs in 2014.
“I’ve been with Kyle a long time and we both talked and I think it’s probably best for him now to go and do something on his own,” Tatarnic said. “I think he’s at a point where he’s been an assistant coach for over six years and it’s time for him to find his team and put his own stamp on things.
“You always hope to run your own show and I think the time is right for him.”
Adams faces a tall task in Drayton Valley, taking over one of the AJHL’s lesser lights. The Thunder stumbled to a 17-39-4 record in 2016-17, finishing sixth in the league’s North division. The fifth place Sherwood Park Crusaders had 67 points.
The first place team in the north, the Fort McMurray Oil Barons, rolled up 91 points and the league’s top team, the Brooks Bandits, had 106.
To get Drayton Valley from where they are to where they need to be looks like a massive job, but Adams sounds excited.
“I am thrilled to have been given this opportunity to build something new and exciting that all of us, especially our fans and supporters, will be very proud to be a part of,” he said in a news release. “I am looking forward to getting to know our players and I have already begun recruiting new players to round out next season’s team.”
Tatarnic enjoyed a comfort level with Adams that will be hard to replace.
“But it’s good for me to work with someone new because it presents new challenges and ideas,” Tatarnic said. “I think it’s good for everyone involved and it’s something that myself and Paul (Nicolls) and Brian (Maloney) will figure out as we go.
“I’ve already had some good discussions with Brian and Paul about building our roster and I’ve received feedback from them on what direction we want to go.”
Nicolls and Maloney were assistants last season.
Maloney will be taking on a bit more responsibility as he starts preparing to (perhaps) take on a team of his own down the road.
“I expect my assistants to have that goal to be a head coach,” Tatarnic said. “You want the people you work with to have goals and expectations and a vision of where they want to be.”
“We want to develop coaches and if Brian ends up being a head coach in our league, that’s good for us. Maybe I leave down the road and Brian takes over here, and that’s good for Chilliwack.”
Maloney’s presence in the Chiefs locker room combined with his role as Chilliwack Minor Hockey’s Executive Director also cements a valuable partership.
“He helps bridge that gap between the two organizations and I believe we can work together on some projects that the entire community will benefit from,” Tatarnic said.
The coaching shuffle isn’t the only change in the dressing room. The Chiefs have also switched trainers, with Kristalee Walchuk moving on, replaced by Brian Patafie.
Patafie is a fascinating story with a large personality.
An athletic therapist with nearly four decades experience, Patafie is a published author (Ice it Down, A look at pro hockey through a trainer’s eyes) and has a Stanley Cup ring.
Patafie was in the Calgary Flames organization for 12 years and was on the bench in 1989 when the team won its only National Hockey League championship.
Patafie is a motivational speaker and anti-bullying advocate with a very active Twitter account (@bpatafie).
“Kristalee did a real good job for us, but an opportunity came up to hire a really experienced guy,” Tatarnic explained. “He brings a wealth of knowledge and experience, and in a very important year for us, when this opportunity presented itself we looked at it and decided this is the direction we want to go.”