July 7th, 2020

Academy coaches excited: Desjardins to coach boys, Vossen girls under-18 hockey teams

By Ryan McCracken on May 30, 2020.

Evan Vossen is ready to bring elite female hockey back to Medicine Hat.

The former Banff Hockey Academy male prep head coach will be making the trip across Alberta to join South Alberta Hockey Academy as head coach of the first AAA female hockey program the Gas City has seen since 2012.

“Knowing that there’s limited opportunity to females in the area, hopefully we can create a little bit of excitement and give some of the younger girls some aspirations to play as they get older,” said Vossen. “I’m very excited about the opportunity to get going here. I’m originally from Swift Current, so I know the Medicine Hat area is kind of a hockey hotbed — people really appreciate their hockey.”

Banff Hockey Academy recently made the decision to shed its AAA prep programs after being a member of the Canadian Sport School Hockey League for 11 seasons, allowing SAHA to step in and take control of its male and female under-18 prep squads moving forward. The teams will play out of the Family Leisure Centre, while players will attend classes at Eagle Butte High School in Dunmore.

“We’ll try to mix a few of the old with a few new things here to make it a unique program for South Alberta Hockey Academy,” Vossen said of transitioning to SAHA with Banff Hockey Academy. “I think there are a few things we will try to bring over … but at the same point, I think it’s a relocation and a renaming, and there’s a bit of excitement that comes with it being a little new as well.”

Vossen spent three seasons as coach and general manager of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League’s La Ronge Ice Wolves — where he also spent three years as a player — before taking on the role of head coach with Banff’s prep squad this past year. This season will be the first time

Vossen steps behind the bench of a female squad.

“This will be my first foray into female hockey,” he said, adding he expects a fairly straightforward transition. “There are some different tendencies to the game, but the thing for me is that the game of hockey — regardless of age or level or anything — is pretty much the same. The difference between the male and the female game is obviously body contact, but then realistically I think that’s kind of where it ends.”

Originally hailing from Swift Current, Vossen says he understands the importance of hockey in small-town communities like Dunmore and Medicine Hat and can’t wait to help grow the game in the Gas City area.

“Hockey has always been a backbone for those communities, especially in the Prairies and out West here,” said Vossen. “Being able to be part of something that’s here, that can bring some excitement and ideally help grow the game at the grassroots level, make sure that hockey numbers are strong — there’s a real piece of that which is exciting for myself.”

Brayden Desjardins will take the reins of the men’s under-18 prep squad after serving as bench boss of South East Athletic Club’s bantam AAA team this season. Desjardins has been involved with SAHA since its inception and even maintained his role with the academy while serving as head coach with SEAC.

“It’s been a long time coming,” said Desjardins. “I’ve been coaching in Medicine Hat for the last five years now, so to finally get something like this here is super exciting.”

Desjardins — son of Medicine hat

Tigers head coach and SAHA founder Willie Desjardins — says it has been fairly easily working alongside his father as an academy instructor, but he’s curious to see if that relationship will change as he steps behind the bench.

“With him being my dad it was a pretty easy transition to come in and work for him. I don’t know how good it’ll be for him to be my boss, but it’ll be super exciting going forward,” said Desjardins. “Finally he just kind of pulled the trigger on (joining the CSSHL). He’s always wanted to give back to Medicine Hat and give kids an opportunity to play. He saw an opportunity there where he could try to give back a little bit and that’s what he did.”

With the COVID-19 pandemic still putting a pin in athletic plans across the nation, Vossen and Desjardins both say building a roster will take some time, but the plan will be to focus on Southeastern Alberta before looking elsewhere for talent.

“I think it’s really important to us, and it was really important to my dad, that we comprised at least a decent chunk of it being local kids. We’ll definitely look to here first before we start looking elsewhere,” said Desjardins. “Obviously we don’t know when quite yet we’ll get back into the rink, so we’re trying to form a team the best we can. I’ve been lucky where I’ve been in the minor hockey system for a few years now, and being at the bantam AAA level gave me a really good eye for what’s in that ’05 age group. We’ll do a lot of talking to hockey minds and talking to lots of scouts.”

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