Clearly, Brandin Cote relishes a challenge.
Just as he did when he replaced Brian Sutter as head coach of the Bentley Generals in 2012, Cote is following a tough act as the new bench boss of the five-time defending Alberta Midget Hockey League champion Red Deer Optimist Chiefs.
The Red Deer Minor Hockey Association announced Tuesday that Cote has been hired as the Chiefs head coach. Cote replaces Doug Quinn, who was at the helm of the club for all five of the recent glory years.
“After Doug came out and said he wouldn’t be coaching the team next season, a couple of people approached me and asked if I was interested,” said Cote. “After Dallas (RDMHA manager Gaume) contacted me, I thought it through and talked to my family. I had to figure out a few things to see if this was a commitment I could make.
“In the end, I decided I wanted to get back into coaching this year, so I put my name in and it worked out OK.”
Cote played five seasons with the Spokane Chiefs of the Western Hockey League and seven years of pro hockey before joining the senior AAA Bentley Generals for one and a half seasons.
He caught the coaching bug as an assistant to then Red Deer College Queens bench boss Trevor Keeper during the 2011-12 season and was then approached by Generals general manager Jeff McInnis in regards to taking the Chinook Hockey League club’s head coaching reins.
Cote coached the Generals to the 2013 Allan Cup championship in what turned out to be his only season behind the team’s bench. Having just completed his education degree at RDC and with a teaching job at Red Deer St. Patrick’s Community School secured, he realized he didn’t have the time to put into another year of coaching.
“I knew it would be too much to continue with both this past season. I was facing too much of a learning curve as a first-year teacher,” he said. “I just needed a little break to regroup a bit and kind of get familiar with my new job and spend time with my family.
“I took a year off and realized I definitely missed it. Coaching is definitely something I envision myself doing for a long time and something I’m passionate about. After thinking about this opportunity and making sure I can put forth the commitment, I decided to apply.”
Cote knows he’s stepping into new territory, that coaching at the top senior and midget levels requires different mindsets.
“At the end of the day, the biggest difference between coaching men and coaching teenagers is that there’s probably a little more patience and teaching involved with the younger guys,” he said. “At the senior level, the teaching isn’t necessarily the most important part, it’s getting people to buy in as a team.
“At the same time, hockey is hockey. You have to be able to expect the best out of your players, you expect them to come to work every day. Over the last five to 10 years both the Bentley Generals and the Optimist Chiefs have enjoyed the kind of success that requires a lot of commitment from both the coaches and players.”
Helping develop future junior, university and even pro players is another key element of coaching at the midget AAA level, Cote insisted.
“The teaching part is really important, as is the development of the players,” he said. “Doug and his staff did that very well. They had a good group of players, but they obviously also had a plan in place and developed players.
“The real measure of success with those teams is not necessarily the provincial and (two) Telus Cup championships, which are great, but all the players who moved on to the junior levels and university and college. That’s where you see the real success.”
In just five years, Quinn established himself as somewhat of a coaching legend in Red Deer. The shoes that Cote is stepping into are very large indeed, although he’s confident that he’s up to the task.
“I look at it as a very similar situation to when I took over Bentley,” he said.
“The Advocate headline at the time was ‘Cote has big shoes to fill.’ That’s what most people are saying now, and maybe it’s true, but I don’t really view it that way. I’m very confident in my abilities as a coach. I’m not going to be feeling any pressure, I’m just going to go out and do what I love to do.
“At the end of the day you set the bar high and you expect that from your players and from yourself. I know we’re going to put the best possible plan in place and these kids are going to be prepared and expected to come to work every day. If we all do that we’ll give ourselves a great chance to be successful as a team and for them to develop as players and people.”
Cote has already enlisted Justin Jarmolicz to help him behind the bench during the 2014-15 season and hopes to add more assistant coaches. Jarmolicz coached the minor midget AAA North Star Sports Chiefs last winter.
“I have more people in mind,” said Cote.
“I’ve talked to a few people that I’ve coached with and interacted with . . . I’m kind of in that process. Obviously you can’t do it all yourself. You need good people around you.”
l The RDMHA also announced Tuesday that Tom Bast will return as head coach of the major midget girls Sutter Fund Chiefs.