After a wildly successful six years behind the bench of the Red Deer Vipers in the Heritage Junior B Hockey League, JD Morrical and Kaare Odegaard are taking on a new challenge.
The duo, who coached the Vipers to a regular season record of 151-65-10, two league titles and four provincials appearances over the last six seasons, will now guide the Red Deer North Star Chiefs U16 (minor midget) AAA team.
“Six and a half years with the Vipers and I really did love every minute of it. I felt like the Vipers were in a good spot, they had a young group of guys. I wanted a change and I wasn’t sure what it was going to be,” said Morrical, who was the Vipers head coach.
“I wanted to try something different. I always thought we’d be good with young guys and this opportunity came up. They called and asked and we talked about it quite a bit. We decided it was something we really wanted to do.”
The move is a full circle one for Morrical in his hockey career, as it was 15 years ago that he was a member of the North Star Chiefs. Under the coaching of Doug Quinn, Morrical and Odegaard won provincials that year.
Morrical, who also played four seasons for his hometown Vipers admitted it was a tough decision to step away from the team but is now excited to work with younger players and help shape their development.
“It’s a big year for their maturity, they will be just starting high school. Being a triple-A team, players come from all over to make one best team. For us, we’ve always been good at getting teams to gel. That’s one of the best things that we do,” he said.
“I look forward to the opportunity to bring players together that have been playing against each other for 10 years now.”
He added with the Vipers having such a strong young core, it was the right time to make a change and knows they’ll be well-situated for next season and beyond.
These days, he is spending some time looking at the names for potential players they hope to scoop up. While that part of his job will change a bit with younger players, Morrical said the identity his team will play with whenever they do hit the ice, will be the same as it always was.
“It’s exciting to teach them maybe more advanced power plays and more structure of a game and they’re at that age where they’re like sponges and they can really learn,” he said. “As a whole game, we’re going to keep it the same. We’re going to play a simple style of hockey, really aggressive and that’s what we like to see.”
Although the back-to-back titles in 2017 and 2018 were nice, Morrical said that among the things he’ll remember most about his time with the Vipers is not just the wins and losses, but the hard-fought divisional playoff battles.
“I’ll definitely miss the Saturday nights at home where you’re the last game of the night. Those were fun, having good crowds,” he said.
With Morrical and Odegaard gone, the Vipers are actively searching for a new coach for next season.