Coach successfully juggled family and hockey
Okotoks: Dwayne Gelinas has been coaching sons, teams for 15 years
Wednesday, Mar 20, 2013 06:00 am
An Okotoks hockey coach won’t have to reintroduce himself to his family after putting in long hours with the Okotoks Tier III Midget Oilers this season.
After all, family has been an important part of coach Dwayne Gelinas’ life in his 25 years of coaching — the last 15 with the Okotoks Minor Hockey Association (OMHA).
Gelinas saw his youngest of three sons, 17-year-old Braden, end his OMHA career when the Oilers dropped a 4-1 decision to Drumheller in the South Central Alberta Hockey League final Sunday at the Murray Arena.
“It was a very emotional moment when the game ended,” Dwayne said. “I have been coaching one of my kids for close to 20 years now.”
It was an end of an era. The 50-year-old Gelinas has coached at least one of his sons, Braden, Tyler and Matt, for the past 15 years in Okotoks. Sometimes, he would be coaching all three while they were playing for three different teams.
“My kids were three years apart so if Braden was in Atom, Tyler was in Peewee and Matt was in Bantam so I was able to do it,” Gelinas said, adding he always had great help from his co-coaches and OMHA in working out any conflicts in scheduling.
“There would be times when I would have a practice at the Murray Arena and then as soon as it was over, I would walk over to the Piper Arena — with my skates on — to go to another practice.”
He shouldn’t be too surprised hockey played such a major role in his family. If it wasn’t for hockey, he wouldn’t have his family.
His first stint behind the bench came when Gelinas was just 17 years old. He was coaching a Willow Park Peewee hockey team in Calgary.
“My future brother-in-law was on that team,” Gelinas said. “So it was through hockey that I met my wife, Diane.”
Diane quickly learned her driver’s licence was as important as the marriage licence when you are married to a hockey coach.
The Gelinas were living in Shawnessy when Dwayne first started coaching his oldest son Matt. They moved to Priddis approximately 15 years ago and Diane and Dwayne have been putting on more miles than a FedEx driver in running their children to hockey rinks and schools.
“It was 50 kilometres one way and sometimes we would be making four trips a day between home, the rink and school — that’s 400 kilometres a day,” Gelinas said. “One practice might end at 5:30 p.m. and I would wait around until 7:30 p.m. for another practice, while Diane is picking up and dropping off the kids.”
A good hockey coach figures things out quickly when things are going wrong. The Gelinas family moved into Okotoks 12 years ago — their home now backs onto the Okotoks Recreation Centre.
He has coached from Initiation to Midget in Okotoks from Tier VI to AA. He has also won league championships and been to provincials. He was the coach of the Midget AA Oilers when they hosted the provincial championships in the mid 2000s, winning a bronze medal.
Although banners are nice and they look good in arenas, they are just window-dressing compared to helping build character in boys and young men — and to see them love and appreciate the game as much as he does.
“The highlights for me was always something like a joke that might have been said in a car or moments in the dressing room,” he said.
He knows while the intensity of hockey varies from tier to tier, the thrill of playing is paramount regardless of age or ability.
“I always like to see how my kids react to winning,” Gelinas said. “I remember coaching at a Novice tournament and this one player was talking to his dad, who was helping him take off his gear.
“The kid didn’t stop talking about it for 10 minutes — I don’t think he drew a breath — he was so excited. I think he relived every minute of the game to his dad.”
Although he was dad at home, on the ice and in the locker room Matt, Tyler and Braden, were just boys who loved Canada’s national game.
“They were treated just like everybody else,” Gelinas said. “If they didn’t deserve to be on the ice, they weren’t on the ice.”
Gelinas pushed “R-E-S-P-E-C-T” harder than Aretha Franklin. He stressed his players to have respect for the opponents, their teammates and the game of hockey.
He also emphasized the rink was a place his players should enjoy. Playing hockey meant having fun, being with peers and leaving your problems at the rink.
Diane and Dwayne’s children certainly listened. Matt went on to captain the Okotoks Junior B Bisons for two years and is now a member of the organization’s Wall of Fame.
Tyler has followed in his father’s footsteps and has helped his dad coach for the past two years.
“He was a great coach — he is why I got into coaching,” said Tyler, an engineering student at Mount Royal University. “It was fun having him as a coach because you could always talk to him about anything and he knows so much about hockey.”
Although Diane may soon have her husband back fulltime, she admitted to being sad as the final horn was blown at the end of game on Sunday.
“Hockey has always been such a big part of our family,” Diane said.
“It is sad.”