The Red Deer Rebels are in the market for an assistant coach.
After five years as a Rebels assistant, Bryce Thoma resigned Tuesday after lengthy discussions with owner/general manager and head coach Brent Sutter.
“Bryce and I have met a couple of times since our season was over and talked about the direction of the organization and his future and what he wanted for himself and his family,” said Sutter. “We came to the conclusion today that this is probably the best decision for everyone involved.”
Thoma’s role with the club was reduced when Sutter replaced Jesse Wallin behind the Rebels bench in November and then hired Jeff Truitt as an associate coach.
“The reality of the situation was that with Jeff coming in, it changed Bryce’s role within the organization and I respect him for feeling the way he did about that,” said Sutter. “At the end of the day, we just decided it was best to go in a different direction.
“I have a tremendous amount of respect for Bryce and the job he did here. Much like when he was a player with our team, Bryce came to work every day with passion for the game and great knowledge. We all wish Bryce and his family the best in their future endeavors; he will always be a Rebel.”
Thoma agreed that the decision was mutual.
“With Jeff and Brent being there I was kind of moving down the ladder instead of up the ladder,” he said. “It was kind of a tough situation to go through this year, but I think you learn from everything. Moving forward, I’d still love to coach and we’ll see what happens in the future.
“My option here was to come back (next season) in the same kind of reduced role and when you’re not going up but going backwards . . . it happens, there are no hard feelings. I’m happy I got to spend five years here. A lot of people in the coaching world spend less than five years in the same spot.”
Thoma played four seasons with the Rebels — from 1999 to 2003 — and was part of the 2001 Memorial Cup championship team.
He went on to play at the University of Saskatchewan where he earned a commerce degree, then spent two seasons playing pro hockey before starting his coaching career.
Thoma joined the Rebels coaching staff in 2008 and last fall was the head coach of runner-up Team Alberta in the Western Canada Under-16 Challenge Cup.
“I got to play and coach for nine great years in Red Deer,” he said. “I got to meet a lot of great people and made a lot of friends in a great city. It’s bittersweet.”
Thoma and his family will move to his hometown of Saskatoon in short order. From there, he’ll likely attempt to continue his coaching career.
“You never know what will happen. It’s kind of the great unknown — you can’t really predict the future and if hockey opportunites come my way I’ll definitely look at them,” he said.
Sutter said he’ll bring in a new assistant coach for the 2013-14 season, although he has set no timelines for the hire.
“I’m not sure who it will be, but it will have to be a person who comes in and works well with Jeff and whoever the head coach may be,” said Sutter, who hasn’t officially decided if he will return as the Rebels bench boss, but is expected to make an announcement in May.