Jesse Wallin’s season isn’t over yet.
The Red Deer Rebels general manager/head coach was offered the head coaching position with the Canadian team for the world under-18 hockey championship last week and Hockey Canada made the announcement Sunday after Wallin accepted the post.
“Actually, it kind of caught me off guard. I got a call on Tuesday from Brad Pascall with Hockey Canada and he offered me the opportunity, so it kind of came out of the blue,” Wallin said Sunday, less than 24 hours after the Rebels’ WHL season concluded with a 7-3 home-ice loss to the Edmonton Oil Kings.
“It came about pretty quickly and I had to make a decision. I discussed it with my wife and with Brent (Rebels owner Sutter) and had their full support so I decided to go ahead with it. It’s something I’m real excited about.
“Of course my first priority and first wish would have been to be playing in the playoffs with our team, but unfortunately that won’t happen. This is kind of a great back-up plan, for lack of a better term. It’s a great opportunity.”
Wallin has an international hockey resume. He twice played for the Canadian national junior team — winning gold in 1997 and finishing eighth as a co-captain the following year — and served as an assistant to Pat Quinn on the coaching staff of the gold-medal winning 2008 national U18 team.
“From a coaching perspective, working with the level of athlete that is involved in an event like this was just an incredible experience,” said Wallin, reflecting on the 2008 world U18 championship.
“A lot of those kids are playing on TV right now. Our top line that year was Taylor Hall, Jordan Eberle and Cody Hodgson and on the back end we had kids like Tyler Myers and Marco Scandella who’s now with Minnesota. So you get a chance to coach some pretty special players and get to build some great relationships.
“To go back this year with the challenge of being the head coach is going to be a tremendous experience. I’m real excited about it.”
Joining Wallin on the Team Canada coaching staff for the world U18 championship April 12-22 in the Czech Republic will be P.E.I Rockets head coach Gordie Dwyer, Kingston Frontenacs bench boss Todd Gill and Hockey Canada goaltending consultant and former NHL goalie Ron Tugnutt.
“Todd was my defence partner in my first NHL game (with Detroit in 1999-2000), so it’s funny how the world kind of spins,” said Wallin. “We have a real good staff, a real good group. I feel we’re going to be able to put a fairly strong team together and it’s going to be a great challenge.”
Wallin will look back to his 2008 experience to prepare himself for his stint as the U18 head man.
“You get exposed to different styles of play in international hockey. The European teams play different styles, different systems with different ideas,” he said. “And then of course you get to share coaching ideas with your assistants. We’re all in the Canadian Hockey League but the style of play in the Western, Ontario and Quebec leagues are different, so you get assorted perspectives.
“I think that any time you get to rub shoulders with other coaches you can learn.”
Wallin is adamant that he and fellow assistant Guy Boucher, who’s now the head coach of the Tampa Bay Lightning, became better tutors by working with Quinn in 2008.
“That was an amazing opportunity, to soak up Pat’s years of knowledge,” said Wallin. “I’m a pretty intense guy, I get wound up and excited. I remember with Pat the thing that always struck me was how calm and poised he was.
“Prior to the gold-medal game, and about 20 minutes before warmup, we were sitting in the coaches room and Pat was telling stories about dealing with Fred Shero in the ‘70s. He was chuckling away and was just so comfortable and so confident. That was a neat experience and it’s just those little things along the way that you pick up and get exposed to.”
Wallin will almost certainly be accompanied to the Czech Republic by Rebels defenceman Mathew Dumba.
“It’s safe to say that Matty’s going to have a spot on that team,” said Wallin. “He’s an elite player in his age group — all the players are ‘94-born. He’s excited and I’m looking forward to having him with us.”
• Alex Petrovic, Conner Bleackley and Adam Kambeitz scored for the Rebels Saturday. Curtis Lazar notched two goals for the Oil Kings, who got singles from Ashton Sautner, T.J. Foster, Michael St. Croix, Kristians Pelss and Mitchell Moroz.
Laurent Brossoit stopped 26 shots for Edmonton, which clinched first place overall with the victory. Rebels netminder Deven Dubyk made 28 saves before a recorded crowd of 5,796 at the Centrium.
• Petrovic picked up the Rebels MVP and top defenceman trophies during presentations prior to the game.
Meanwhile, defenceman Kayle Doetzel was named top rookie, Tyson Ness was honoured as the most under-rated player, Kambeitz was feted as the club’s humanitarian player and also picked up the Red Deer Advocate players award, and John Persson was recognized as the team’s top scorer.