Where the Buffaloes roam
Hockey: Oilers extending ties with Calgary hockey association
Wednesday, Oct 10, 2012 12:38 pm
With apologies to local politicians there’s been an existing pipeline extending south from Calgary to Okotoks for a few years now.
This one doesn’t transport water, however, it stocks the Okotoks Oilers with coaches, trainers and a bevy of on-ice talent from the vaunted Calgary Buffaloes Hockey Association (CBHA).
Colton Sheen, one of three Buffaloes alumni who made the Alberta Junior Hockey League team as a rookie, said Oilers head coach James Poole blazed the trail to Okotoks.
“I thought it would be a good fit for us because Poole was pretty much the face of the Buffaloes for a few years there,” Sheen said. “The style of hockey, all the drills in practice, the systems they’re all from the Buffaloes so I thought Okotoks would be a good fit for me.”
Poole’s history with the CBHA is considerable.
“I was in the association for seven years, four years with the Midget AAA team and played with the association too,” Poole said. “I guess it does have a bit of a soft spot for me.”
The Oilers’ entire coaching staff, assistants Derek Stuart and Bobby Fox and trainer Mike Elchuk, were with Poole during their Mac’s Midget AAA championship in 2009.
That team featured former Oilers Cody Irving and Matt Maleschuk, current Oilers centre Greg Lamoureux and winger Chris Collins. Sophomore Oiler Braeden Salverda also played his Minor Midget AAA with the CBHA before coming to Okotoks. New defenceman Kyle Krabben is also a former Buffalo.
The Oilers coach said the Buffaloes’ channel to Okotoks in recent years has more to do with the reputation of the hockey association, one that boasts impressive alumni in Dany Heatley, Jordan Eberle and Craig Adams.
“It’s had a lot of great success and players from there are quality players that learn how to win,” Poole said. “Anytime you can bring players with that kind of track record it’s a positive. Whether it’s a Buffalo, a Red Deer, a Prince Albert as in (Jordan) Swenson and Cody Michelle, those are strong programs that develop quality players.”
The strength of the association, however, doesn’t always account for the different coaching abilities that can permeate minor hockey.
“It varies from coach to coach, on the whole, traditionally you’re getting a pretty solid kid, but in terms of it being a guarantee, there’s no such thing,” Poole said.
The presence of Buffaloes donning the blue helmets at Pason Centennial Arena during their training camp is symptomatic of the 2012-13 season as well.
Sheen, John Edwardh and blueliner Drew Weich are more than just Buffaloes alumni, the trio have all been coached by Poole in the past.
“They went on a Boston showcase last year and I coached the team and two of three were on the team,” Poole said. “And Colton, I had him for bits and pieces before I took over (with Okotoks). There’s some history there, I know what they’re capable of doing, I know what they bring to the table and anytime you have personal history with players it definitely helps.”
Sheen, who played five games as an affiliate with the Oilers last season, said his coaches at the Midget level advised him to consider transitioning to Junior hockey under the guidance of the Buffaloes alumni behind the Okotoks bench.
“All the coaches are really tight and they obviously talk,” Sheen said. “I think James favours those kids because that’s where he started.”
Edwardh, who was selected in the seventh round by the Western Hockey League’s Seattle Thunderbirds in the 2010 Bantam Draft, said the Junior A route is more suited to his development and allows for the possibility of a scholarship.
“The Oilers are a really good organization for Junior A and it’s close to home too,” said Edwardh, the second leading scorer in Midget AAA last season. “I thought it was the best of both worlds.”
Edwardh is taking his leap to Junior hockey one step at a time.
“I eventually want to be a go-to-guy offensively, a guy that can play in all scenarios,” he said.
Joining the Oilers with a few minor hockey teammates makes for a more seamless transition to Junior A, said Edwardh.
“For sure, if you have a couple familiar faces it’s always better,” Edwardh said.
The advantages of such playing history has manifested itself on the team, Poole said.
“We can already see the chemistry with our group was way further ahead than at this point last year,” Poole said after the team’s exhibition schedule.
“When you have the groups like the Buffaloes that have a history and get along, and a few from Red Deer that get along, and Calgary Flames that get along you take some of the awkward situations where you get some individuals isolated from the group.
“You have everyone that feels part of something now.”