BY ZACHARY CORMIER
As they prepare to begin their inaugural season as the Lacombe Generals next month, the City’s new Chinook Hockey League team are turning to a familiar face to guide the team as the new head coach.
During a special press conference at Leto’s last Thursday night, the Generals announced that long-time player Curtis Austring will be hanging up the skates to take over as head coach of the defending Allan Cup champions this season.
“I’m excited to be the coach of the team. I’ve got a lot of history with the hockey program there and I’m excited about a new chapter with the team in Lacombe,” Austring said during a phone interview with the Express earlier this week.
The 33-year-old will be stepping in for former Head Coach Ryan Tobler, who is moving on to pursue his professional coaching career as an assistant coach with the Colorado Eagles of the East Coast Hockey League.
Tobler won the Allan Cup with the team as an assistant coach in 2013 and then guided the team to the Allan Cup final in two of the next three years before finally winning it all last season.
“When Ryan Tobler broke my heart, there, and said he was leaving I thought immediately of Curtis,” said the Generals’ General Manager Jeff McInnis.
“Curtis is a guy who has been part of our nucleus for the past eight seasons and we’ve done a pile of winning with him as one of our very core leaders. I knew that he was nearing the end of his playing career, but I wasn’t sure if he was wanting to play another year or not.”
Austring joined the then-Bentley Generals at the beginning of the 2008-2009 season.
In the eight years since, the former Western Hockey League player has been a mainstay of the Generals’ roster, racking up 84 goals and 130 assists for 214 points in 165 games and has hoisted the Allan Cup three times with the team.
The Stewart Valley, Sask. native is also the franchise’s second all-time in career goals and points.
“My decision to hang ‘em up, so to speak, really was determining where I was at. Last year, I felt like it was just a conclusion to playing. I felt myself saying I’ve accomplished what I wanted to accomplish,” Austring said, adding that he has been thinking about putting his playing days behind him for the past couple of years.
“I’ve got a young family, I’ve got other commitments going on. It takes a lot of commitment to play at the level that you want to play at in this league. So now with this opportunity I was just excited to jump at the chance there and take this on.”
When asked whether he was surprised when McInnis asked him to take over as coach, Austring said that he wasn’t shocked because of what his role on the team has been over the past couple of years.
“I kind of view myself as more of a teacher. I have a viewpoint on what you should concentrating on as a player that I think lent itself well to coaching. So I wasn’t really surprised when Jeff kind of asked me. It was more, am I prepared to accept the responsibility and the role and that kind of stuff,” he said.
McInnis said, “I think the sky’s the limit with him. He’s got such an ability to be a great coach because of how smart he is. He knows the game and he knows our people.
“So I’m very blessed to say that after losing one of our most important key people in Ryan Tobler, we’ve gained Curtis Austring in that same position. So I think we’ll not miss a beat that way. There may be some hiccups along the way for him but overall he’ll be terrific,” added McInnis, noting that the rookie bench boss will have some very capable help behind the bench, as Ken Richardson will be joining the team as an assistant coach this year.
“To give Curtis such a great assistant coach in Ken Richardson, I’m very proud of that because what a great assistant coach. It’ll probably surprise a lot of our newest people who don’t know how good of a coach he’ll become as well,” McInnis said of Richardson, a former captain of the Red Deer Rebels who also has ties to the Generals.
“He played for us 10 </sp