Dwayne Gylywoychuk won gold in Hungary and now he’s hungry for more.
The former head coach of the Brandon Wheat Kings returned home to the Wheat City on Tuesday after helping Canada win the world under-18 women’s hockey championship while serving as an assistant coach. For the former longtime member of the Wheat Kings organization, it was the experience of a lifetime and one that whet his appetite to coach full time once again.
"I was lucky enough to be involved with it and it’s an experience that I am going to remember for the rest of my life ... and I know I’m a better coach because of the experience," said Gylywoychuk, who helped Canada run the table at the worlds, capping a perfect 6-0 record with a 1-0 overtime victory over Russia in the semifinals and a 5-1 triumph over the United States in Sunday’s gold-medal game in Budapest.
It was Gylywoychuk’s first international coaching stint and his first time back behind the bench since being let go in the summer of 2013 after serving one season as head coach of the Wheat Kings.
"It was great to be back in the trenches and the day-to-day operations of a hockey team again," said Gylywoychuk, who still holds the Wheat Kings’ franchise record for most games played (323) and spent nine years as an assistant coach with the organization before getting a shot as head coach in 2012-13. "Sitting down and developing a game plan and teaching the players and doing the pre-scouts and all that game-plan stuff again, being on the ice for practice, it was great and it gave me the itch to get coaching again right away. It really brought out the passion I have to be a teacher, to be a coach and it was a great experience."
The Hockey Canada stint capped a season in which Gylywoychuk was not involved in the game full time for the first time in decades. However, Gylywoychuk did dabble in coaching by helping out a couple of Brandon minor hockey teams, did some work with Hockey Manitoba and spent a week with former Wheat King great Marty Murray as a guest coach with the Minot Minotauros of the North American Hockey League.
The year away from the game gave him time to reflect on his time as a coach and, most importantly, confirmed how much he wants to continue to make it his career.
"When you take a step back, you really respect the game and the hockey world and how busy you are, and it’s kind of a 24/7 job," Gylywoychuk said. "You take the time to revisit some of the stuff you tried and some of the stuff you experienced and now that added drive of not being in the game for a year has really kind of lit the fire for me to get back at it."
Two years ago, Gylywoychuk finally got his shot to be a head coach in the WHL, accepting the tough task of taking over a rebuilding Wheat Kings team that went on to struggle to a 24-40-4-4 record and miss the playoffs for the first time in 13 years. Owner/general manager Kelly McCrimmon relieved him of his duties and returned to the bench himself, with Gylywoychuk turning down an opportunity to remain in the organization in another capacity. While his single season as head coach ended in disappointment, Gylywoychuk doesn’t regret taking the job.
"I will never, ever regret the opportunity that I was given," he said. "It was a goal of mine to become the head coach of the Brandon Wheat Kings and if I was ever given that opportunity again, I would run with it 100 per cent. At the end of the day when I reflect on what happened with my year as head coach, I think I did the best that I could do and I think every day I worked as hard as I could ... and I’m going to stand proud of what I did that year."
Considered more of a players’ coach than an old-school bench boss, Gylywoychuk said a year of reflection hasn’t dramatically changed his thoughts on running a bench. If the worst you can say about him is he’s a little too nice of a guy, so be it.
"I think in any profession you are in, you are going to learn by your experience and what has worked and what hasn’t, but the biggest thing I’ve learned is I’m not going to change who I am because I really learned from talking to people that if you try to be someone you’re not, then you are only going to hurt yourself," he said. "I have a lot of assets, my personality, my experience, and I think I can help people get to that next level and become better hockey players and better people."
While Brandon has been home for years for him and his family — wife Cara and daughters Emma and Madie — the 40-year-old Gylywoychuk knows he will likely have to leave the Wheat City for his next coaching gig. With the off-season around the corner and opportunities in the professional and junior ranks already opening up, he is anxious to get back in the game full time again.
"It’s time to start looking and seeing what’s out there and see what’s going to be right for me to continue to develop as a coach and what’s right for my family and hopefully there’s going to be some opportunities," Gylywoychuk said. "I want a challenge and a situation that will make me a better coach and a better person. And if that’s in the MJ (Manitoba Junior Hockey League), the AJ (Alberta Junior Hockey League), the American Hockey League or the Western Hockey League, that’s what I am going to do."
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition April 4, 2014