Giants GM Bonner: New coach Troy Ward a teacher, but it won't be Disneyland playing for him
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Vancouver Giants general manager Scott Bonner admitted it took longer than expected to name a new coach, but he believes the prolonged process produced the right candidate.
The Giants announced Troy Ward as the club's new head coach at a press conference in downtown Vancouver on Thursday.
Ward spent the last four years with the American Hockey League's Abbotsford Heat, where he spent the last three seasons as head coach.
His new deal with the Giants is for three years, with flexibility to take a job in the professional ranks should the opportunity arise.
The Giants get a coach with experience at numerous levels, from college and junior in the U.S., to the minor leagues, and the National Hockey League with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
Ward became available when new Calgary Flames general manager Brad Treliving informed him in June that club would not be renewing his contract.
Bonner said he had hoped to have the new coach in place by July 1, but the interview process with Ward didn't begin until last week.
It didn't take long for Ward to make a favourable impression, and not just on Bonner. Pat Quinn, well known in these parts for what he accomplished with the Canucks and a co-owner with the Giants, also liked what he heard and saw from Ward, beginning in the first interview.
The more research Bonner did on Ward, the more impressed he became.
He consulted former Giants J.D. Watt, Lance Bouma, Brett Kulak and Paul Albers, who had all moved on to play for Ward in the AHL, about the candidate in question.
It just seemed like the right fit.
In fact, Bonner said he felt the organization was "lucky" to have landed Ward as the new coach.
"Every review was positive," said Bonner.
"It's not going to be Disneyland playing for him every day, but they thought they were getting better. They thought he was a good teacher, he was patient."
Ward admitted to being caught off guard by the Flames' decision to let him go. He recorded 119 wins combined over three seasons, qualifying for the playoffs on two occasions. But he conceded it's "the nature of the business."
Despite periodically being out of work, the job opportunities were out there.
He had talks with WHL teams in Moose Jaw and Regina about their vacant coaching spots.
The hiring of Ward signifies a major change in direction for the Giants.
He replaces Don Hay, who coached in Vancouver for 10 years, leading the Giants to a Memorial Cup appearance in 2006 and a Memorial Cup championship the following year.
"Big shoes," said Ward.
He's worked with young men in their early 20s to develop their game in the AHL for the last seven years.
Ward once kept former Flames prospect and WHL star Ryan Howse out of the Abbotsford lineup for an entire month because the forward wasn't in good shape.
Ward's honest approach isn't about to change.
He said players will know where they stand with him and the team.
But, given the age range of his players, Ward clarified honesty as giving players a clear message, accompanied with hope.
"You gotta give hope," he said.
"They're a group that will always move forward with good clarity, as I found with 20-year-olds in the American Hockey League, and with hope.
"There will be some patient times, some growing times."
The Giants, with a number of younger players expected in their lineup, including the likes of Ty Ronning and Tyler Benson, are coming off a first-round sweep to the Portland Winterhawks, who were heavily favoured in the series.
Giants' majority owner Ron Toigo has officially announced his intentions to submit a bid to host the 2016 Memorial Cup.
Bonner said the club is done selling. The rebuild has entered its next stage: building a team able to soon be a contender in the WHL's Western Conference.
"That was (Ward's) big question. He wanted to make sure we're on the upswing, not on the downswing," said Bonner.
"I think that he's excited."