Rob Weddell couldn’t have been more excited when he looked toward next season with the RDC Queens hockey team.
But things change and when he received an opportunity to fulfill his academic dreams it was something he couldn’t turn down.
“Looking toward the future I was itching to get deeper into the academic side of teaching and that couldn’t happen while I was coaching,” he explained.
“But I really didn’t think it would happen as soon as it did. But an opening in the kinesiology department came up, I applied for it and got it.”
As a result Weddell had to step down as the Queens coach, despite doing a lot of work on the recruiting side this season.
“I was excited about what I saw,” he said.
“We have a good group of veterans returning, but we’ll also have around 15 new faces, plus we’ve been looking at making renovations to the dressing room (at the Arena) and that finally came through this year. We’ll have a new floor, new paint and new stalls.
“I worked hard on putting together a two- or three-year plan that would have us playing for a league championship. But I had to put my ego aside. It was a tough decision, but also an easy one when it came to my career.”
RDC director of athletics Keith Hansen didn’t have to look far to find a replacement.
In fact all he had to do was look across the hall to find Trevor Keeper.
“We had other applications, but it was clear Trevor had the resume and was familiar with the program,” said Hansen.
“Considering his experience as an assistant coach and a coach at the advanced level he was more qualified than anyone we looked at.”
Keeper couldn’t be more excited about the opportunity.
“I was hopeful that I would get the opportunity to take over this team when Rob moved on, or the men’s team if it when it comes back,” he said.
“I love working at RDC, and so this is a perfect fit for me and my family. I’m grateful for the opportunity to continue instructing at RDC and to take on the challenge of leading the Queens.
“Hockey has been a big part of my life as I’ve been in coaching for 20 years and played before that.”
Keeper got into coaching working with the University of Lethbridge under the direction of Mike Babcock.
“When Mike left the university he encouraged me to go on in coaching and I took over as head coach of the Lethbridge bantam AAA team.”
Keeper worked with the Lethbridge bantams for several years before coaching the Sapporo Snow Juniors of the Japanese Ice Hockey Federation for three years.Once returning to Canada he coached the Nanaimo midget AAA Clippers for a season before moving to Red Deer with his wife Sharon, who coached the RDC Queens basketball squad.
Keeper worked with the Kings hockey team as well as the Red Deer Rebels of the WHL before taking over as head coach of the midget AAA Rebels for one season. He also was an assistant with Team Canada’s U18 program at the IIHF World Championships in Sweden in 2006 and at U18 World Cup in the Czech Republic. He coached with Team Pacific in the U17 world championships in 2004 and 2005 and was head coach of Team Alberta at the Canada Winter Games and U16 Western Canada Challenge.
Although Keeper wasn’t in on any of the Queens recruiting he feels he’s stepping into an excellent position.
“I really appreciate the job Rob has done. He did a great job of recruiting and with so many recruits I will be able to develop an identity and put my stamp on it along with my other coaches. There is a lot of potential and I’m excited about working with the girls.”
Keeper was named the new coach on Friday and so hasn’t had time to meet with any of the players.
“But I want to be able to meet the returnees and as many of the new players face-to-face that I can,” he said.
Keeper hasn’t coached women on a full time basis, but has worked with the Queens.
“Rob brought me in to work a bit on the offensive side with the forwards at practice,” he said. “I found the girls very receptive to new ideas and open to learn. The thing is they’re elite athletes and I don’t see much difference between them and the boys.”
Weddell knows Keeper will fit in nicely.
“I’ve worked a bit with Trevor and I know he’ll step in a do a good job. As well it’s a good time for a new coach to come in. The returning players are all good kids and with 15 to 20 new faces it’s a good time to start. It should make for a good transition.”
While Weddell is leaving the Queens after eight years, he’s not leaving coaching.
“I coached my daughter and my son is starting to get into hockey,” he said. “I’m leaving the Queens, but it’s good that I can be with my family.”