Warriors closing in on next head coach

Matthew Gourlie
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Millar feels he's close to filling coaching vacancy

July is typically a month when front office staff can take it a little easy in the Western Hockey League.

Moose Jaw Warriors

That's not the case for Moose Jaw Warriors general manager Alan Millar.

Millar was in his office after dark on a Tuesday night working away to determine who will be the best fit as the next coach of his hockey team.

"We've gone pretty hard here in the last 7-10 days. There have been a lot of conversations and a lot of meetings. It's been a good process up to this point," said Millar. "We're now at what we feel is somewhat crunch time in terms of getting down to some final candidates and continuing with some calls around the hockey world and doing some reference checks."

Millar has shied away from talking about timelines, but it's possible the new coach will be introduced before the end of the week. Even if it takes a little longer to get to that stage, Millar has narrowed the field of candidates into a very short shortlist.

"We're keying in on some final candidates. It could be one person or could be as many as three here over the next couple of days," said Millar. "I'm working on a shortlist and have been for the last couple of days and hoping to have some final discussions with some people this week."

Millar said he has had "a number" of formal interviews over the past week as he paired his list down.

Three of the WHL coaches who were fired at the end of last season — Jim Hiller in Tri-City, Dave Struch in Saskatoon and Malcolm Cameron in Regina — have all been rumoured to be in the running for the job. There were plenty of experienced WHL names being bandied about three years ago when Millar conducted the same search and settled on the much-less-speculated about Mike Stothers.

"We've talked to a lot of the rumoured names," said Millar. "I think we've talked to some candidates that some people might consider a little out of the box, but ultimately we're not really caught up in rumours or who people think might be available or who might be the right fit. It's up to us to decide who the right fit is for our hockey club.

"Hopefully we're going to start to negotiate a deal and get the guy in here that we believe is right for Moose Jaw, our community and our hockey club."

Stothers left the Warriors after three seasons in charge to take the head coaching job with the Manchester Monarchs, the Los Angeles Kings' American Hockey League affiliate.

The Vancouver Giants are expected to introduce Troy Ward as their new head coach on Thursday. Ward is the former head coach of the AHL's Abbotsford Heat. Tuesday the Prince George Cougars named Todd Harkins their general manager.

Portland hired Jamie Kompon as their head coach and GM and Edmonton promoted associate coach Steve Hamilton to head coach which leaves Regina and Moose Jaw looking to fill head coaching vacancies.

While the decision is ultimately Millar's to make alone, he feels he has good resources to lean on to help him vet the candidates.

"I've got good people around the organization and good people and contacts and relationships around the game who are good sounding boards," said Millar. "The hockey world is big, but a lot of times you realize how small it is. For me, being in the game 26 years, you meet people that know people, who are people you know and it just shows that the hockey world can small at times.

"We've had a lot of interest in the position from quality people."

Organizations: American Hockey League, Los Angeles Kings, Vancouver Giants

Geographic location: Moose Jaw, Tri-City, Saskatoon Portland Edmonton

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