By Woodard, Dale on July 22, 2020.
The last time Doug Paisley played Junior B hockey was in 1989 with the Lethbridge Bridge City Barons.
The head coach of the University of Lethbridge Pronghorns women’s hockey team is headed back to those ranks, this time behind the bench.
On Monday, the Copperheads announced they had hired Paisley as their head coach for the 2020-21 Heritage Junior Hockey League season.
With the Horns men’s and women’s hockey programs shelved in April due to budget constraints, Paisley remains with the program as they try to get reinstated, but with the coming season at the university iced, decided to take his talents just east of town.
“I actually think I was reading the Herald when I saw the ad that said they were looking for a coach,” said Paisley.
“I kind of spitballed it around a little bit with some hockey people. I really didn’t want to take a year off and it’s a good fit. I know a lot of the kids and I know the age category. I played Junior B when I was 19 years old, so I know what the league is about. I’ve been out there watching a few times and I have followed some of the players. I coached midget AAA and you see those guys around the rink and they loved their experience out there. I think Kelly (Wiebe, GM/director of operations/media/fundraising for the Copperheads) has done an amazing job out there to give that age category a place to play.”
Of course, the COVID-19 pandemic that shut down the HJHL playoffs back in March will dictate when the new starts.
“I’m excited about it and hopefully we get some indication on what we can and cannot do over the next about six weeks with regards to the province of Alberta, the COVID situation, Hockey Alberta and what is going to be doable and what isn’t,” said Paisley, who is also the president of the Lethbridge Hurricanes of the Western Hockey League.
“Because at this point you just don’t know. We’re going to plan accordingly and we’ll wait for the powers that be to tell us what we need to do and we’ll field a team when they tell us we can.”
Whenever the puck drops for the new HJHL season, there’s a stereotype Paisley wants to dispel.
“You’re trying to break the stigma that it is an inferior league, because it’s not,” he said. “There are some guys that choose to get on with school or they choose not to go to Junior A route for whatever reason. Some of the guys aren’t quite good enough to get there, whether there is a deficiency in skating or whatever, and some of the guys decide that after they’re done midget or after they played a little bit of Junior A they want to move on and go to school.
“Lethbridge has a great attraction with the college and the university, but we also have a huge amount of good kids that come out of our midget programs who are eligible to play in southern Alberta, not just Lethbridge. It’s a pretty good feeder system and having it out in Coaldale where they have their own identity out there, that is that town’s team. On a Saturday night it’s tough to find a ticket sometimes. They’re entertained and they’re proud and they have done such a good job of working out their niche in that community and the community supports them and is proud of them and they should be. I think it’s a really cool opportunity and I’m looking forward to getting on with it.”
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