HUMBOLDT — A Western Hockey League head coach who’s originally from Humboldt has been awarded that league’s coach of the year award.
Brad Lauer, who’s with the Edmonton Oil Kings, said he’s honoured yet humbled to receive the Dunc McCallum Memorial Trophy, which is awarded by a vote of the WHL’s coaches and general managers.
“I've been fortunate enough to have good players and have a great staff, so when you receive an award like this, it's not just an individual award for me,” he said.
“I think it shows what our organization has done this season. There's a lot of guys to give credit to.”
The award was announced May 7. Lauer, who represented the WHL’s eastern conference, was nominated along with Dennis Williams of the western conference’s Everett Silvertips.
Lauer is now a nominee for the Canadian Hockey League’s Sofina Brian Kilrea Coach of the Year award.
In the 2019-20 season, Lauer led the Oil Kings to a WHL Central Division-best record of 42-12-6-4 (94 points). Since he became head coach in June 2018, the Oil Kings have a record of 84-30-10-8 across 132 WHL regular season games.
The head coach said while reviewing the last season, he liked the way his team competed in every game and that it was nice to see the players believe in and execute the team’s systems. He said with travel demands within the league, it can be hard for a team to stay consistent.
“Our kids, they really stayed focused. They were in a lot of games that if we didn’t win then, we at least got a point out of them,” he said.
“We were just competitive for a lot of nights and that's a credit to our players for understanding what we wanted them to do.”
The seeds for a successful 2019-20 season started in the 2018-19 season.
Lauer had taken over a team that placed 22nd place overall within the regular 2017-18 season. The league has 22 teams. In 2016-17, they were 19th overall in the regular season.
The head coach hired a new assistant coach, Luke Pierce, and a new video coach. Lauer was coaching a young team that year.
The Oil Kings ended up placing fifth overall during the 2018-19 regular season and made it to the Eastern Conference final in the playoffs.
Many of the players from that season returned.
“They knew the expectations, they knew what we expected,” Lauer said. “The way we practice, the way we do things is very professional and our guys have done a really good job of being focused, being motivated and excited to come to the rink every day to play and give us their best.”
Lauer said he still has friends and family in Humboldt and tries to make it back in the summer.
For aspiring hockey players in his hometown, Lauer said the advice he would give to them is to put the work in. He said there’s a lot of people that could probably have made it to the NHL but didn’t because they didn’t work hard enough, while others that people wouldn’t have guessed would make it to the NHL did because they did put in the effort.
“It's something that doesn't matter what you do in life, you’ve got to be willing to work, sacrifice and do things right.”