Jeff Truitt knows the job ahead with Rebels
He’s lost coaching jobs, so Jeff Truitt feels for Jesse Wallin.
But Truitt is in Red Deer to take on the job he’s been assigned, and that’s to be an associate coach with the Red Deer Rebels and work with Brent Sutter, the Rebels owner/president/general manager who replaced Wallin as the club’s head coach on an interim basis on Wednesday.
“I’m obviously thrilled to be here, although it comes at a difficult time with what happened,” Truitt said on Thursday, after participating in his first Rebels practice at the Kinex.
“This is a great organization. I can remember coaching in Kelowna and coming in here and having some big wars with the Rebels. We’re striving to get that mindset back here and with Brent and Bryce (assistant coach Thoma) and everyone here today, it’s great the way I’ve been welcomed on my first day here.”
Truitt, who was an assistant coach in the American Hockey League the past two seasons and was an assistant with the University of Lethbridge Pronghorns before being summoned to Red Deer, knows what is expected of him with the Rebels.
“Brent and I share a lot of the same ideas. We expect nothing but the best from the players. We’re not going to cut any corners and that’s what’s going to get you to another level,” he said.
“The expectations for me are to help Brent with the experience that I do have. Brent has a dual responsibility (as GM/head coach) and if something falls on my lap then that’s fine with me. I’ve been a head coach in this league before. Brent wants me to be a positive guy and help keep the players accountable.”
This, as he noted, is not Truitt’s first rodeo.
He was an assistant coach with the Lethbridge Hurricanes in the mid ‘90s before becoming head coach of the Camrose Kodiaks of the AJHL for three seasons.
Truitt then joined the Rockets as an assistant and was an associate coach with Marc Habscheid when Kelowna won the 2004 Memorial Cup. He took over as head coach the next season and stayed in Kelowna for three more years until joining the Moose Jaw Warriors as director of hockey operations.
Truitt was then an assistant and head coach of Springfield of the AHL for two years before moving on to San Antonio and Texas of the AHL.
“I’ve been around for quite awhile, including 11 years in the Western League,” he said. “We were fortunate to win some championships and league titles (in Kelowna). I’m just trying to fit in here and help wherever I’m needed.
“I’m a communicator. I teach, but I teach with instruction. I’m demanding but I also want what is best for the players. If you have that commitment and structure you can be successful in this league. I’m striving to get better myself but I feel communicating is one of my stronger suits.”
With Sutter insistent that he’s in the role of head coach strictly on a temporary basis, Truitt may indeed be auditioning for the job.
“I’m not looking any further ahead than tomorrow in practice,” Truitt insisted. “I’m not going to worry about anything I can’t control. I just want to come in here and help the guys with their confidence and help them find success. I’m just going to take it day by day here.”
Obviously, Truitt is not familiar with the Rebels players, but he liked what he saw of the club during his first practice session.
“I liked the way they worked today, they guys worked hard in practice,” he said. “I’m looking forward to getting into an other practice tomorrow and watching the games this weekend. I feel this team is not far off from doing great things.”
The Rebels host the Swift Current Broncos on Saturday (7:30 p.m.) and entertain the Prince Albert Raiders on Sunday (6 p.m.).
• Sutter added a potential top-six forward on Thursday in the person of Rhyse Dieno, a 19-year-old from Saskatoon who this season was one of the premier players in the SJHL with the Laronge Ice Wolves.
Dieno has WHL experience with Kamloops (one assist in 16 games in 2009-10) and Medicine Hat (4-7-11 in 50 games last season) and this season had 12 goals and 21 points in 15 games with the Wolves. He was one of two SJHL players named to Canada West for the recent World Junior A Challenge and had five points (1g,4a) in four games, including a goal and three helpers in a 7-0 win over the Czech Republic and an assist in the championship final — a 6-3 loss to Team USA.
Meanwhile, Rebels rookie forward Conner Bleackley has been named to Team Pacific — comprised of the top 16-year-olds from B.C. and Alberta — for the 2013 World Under 17 Challenge Dec. 29 to Jan. 4 in the Quebec cities of Victoriaville and Drummondville.