Dwayne Gylywoychuk can’t wait to run a bench again.
A year after being let go by the WHL’s Brandon Wheat Kings in his first stint as a head coach, Gylywoychuk is preparing to coach Hockey Canada’s national women’s development team, essentially an under-22 squad that will feed the Olympic program for 2018. Gylywoychuk signed a one-year contract with Hockey Canada last month to coach the development squad and to serve as an assistant with the senior women’s team.
"It’s a great opportunity for me and not only am I going to be a head coach again and being on the bench and running that, but also all the different things that come with it, planning and the logistics of travelling around the world and the scouting that will be involved," said Gylywoychuk, who will celebrate his 41st birthday on Sunday. "So it will be a good challenge for me and I think it will be a good stepping stone for me at this point in my career."
Gylywoychuk represented Hockey Canada at the IIHF Women’s High Performance Camp in Finland last week, after serving as an assistant coach on the Canadian team that won the world women’s under-18 hockey championship in Hungary last spring.
"It was a good experience, first of all, to travel to Finland, I had never been to Finland before," Gylywoychuk said.
"It was good to be involved in that kind of setting. You are mentoring coaches from all over the world. I had someone from Sweden, Finland, Hungary, Czech Republic all on my staff and our therapist was from Russia, so the language was a bit of a barrier and you learn through sign language and you learn what the hockey chalkboard is all about again. And it also helps to have the translator app on your phone."
Gylywoychuk, who still holds Brandon’s franchise record for most games played (323), spent nine years as an assistant coach and one season as head coach of the Wheat Kings before being relieved of his duties after the club missed the playoffs with a 24-40-4-4 record in 2012-13.
He is anxious to start his second stint as a head coach when he takes the helm of the national development team at the selection camp in Calgary from Aug. 7-17.
"It’s going to be a great challenge for me as a coach again to get back into the swing of things and get back into the daily operations of being a head coach again and running a staff," said Gylywoychuk, whose contract with Hockey Canada will allow him to continue living in Brandon with his family this season and travel for training camps, exhibition games and international tournaments.
The Canadian development squad will face the United States’ under-22 team in a three-game exhibition series from Aug. 21-24, a battle of international rivals that always proves intense.
"A lot of these players play with and against those U.S. players when they go to school, since 90 per cent of these girls are NCAA players," Gylywoychuk said. "And then all of a sudden they put on a different jersey and things change very quickly ... It’s really competitive."
Two of the 42 players picked to try out for the 22 spots on the development team are Brandon’s Ashleigh Brykaliuk, a 19-year-old centre, and Neepawa’s Halli Krzyzaniak, a 19-year-old defenceman, who teamed up to help Canada win gold at the world U-18 women’s hockey championship in 2012 and 2013.
"Those are two very good players who have done very well at the collegiate level at their schools and they have both played for Team Canada at the U-18 level, so it will be good to get some of that Manitoba flavour on the team for sure," Gylywoychuk said.
For players like Krzyzaniak, the development squad is the next step in her dream to play in the Olympics one day.
"Obviously any time you get invited to these types of camps, it’s pretty exciting," Krzyzaniak said. "There are lots of girls that progress through the different stages and I think if I can show that I can succeed at this level, it would be kind of the next step to potentially getting an invite to the national team camp."