Bill Peters spent only one year with the RDC Kings hockey team, but it’s a time that would play a significant role in his future.
Peters, who is now the head coach of the NHL’s Carolina Hurricanes, played for now Toronto Maple Leaf head coach Mike Babcock with the Kings in 1988-89. He would later join Babcock with the Spokane Chiefs of the WHL, and eventually the Detroit Red Wings.
“Babs and I have had a relationship since the year in Red Deer. He was a young coach at the time, and we’ve stayed in touch ever since,” said Peters as he sat in the stands at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas prior to a meeting with the Vegas Golden Knights.
“We get together when he comes to North Carolina, and when we’re in Toronto I get him to buy dinner.”
Peters was born in Three Hills, living there until moving to Killam when he was 10. He grew up playing baseball and hockey and eventually joined the Camrose Augustana Vikings for two years in 1986.
His time with the Vikings and the Kings helped mould him into an elite coach.
“I knew all along that if I wasn’t playing coaching was the next best thing,” he explained.
“Mike Johnson was the head coach with Augustana, and we had two good years. We hosted the Viking Cup and went overseas my second year. Then I was with Babs in Red Deer.
“My passion (for hockey) never left me, and when I got the opportunity to coach I jumped at it.”
His first coaching gig was when he was 24 and with the Killam Junior Bs.
He was married in 1990 and his nurse wife received a job in San Antonio, Tex., which put his coaching dream on hold.
He helped open the San Antonio Arena and ran hockey camps throughout the States and Canada. He even played one game with the Central Hockey League’s San Antonio Iguanas in 1996.
“It was a weird situation. They were short players, and I offered to help them for a game.”
And he finished his professional career averaging three points (a goal and two assists) a game.
Later in 1996, Peters coaching career started to take off.
He ran a coaching clinic during the Spokane Chiefs training camp and when Babcock was with the World Junior Championships in December, Peters was invited to act as an assistant coach.
“I was going to be there for a month, but it ended up I spent the rest of the season there. Then in 1999, when they had an opening for an assistant coach, I was hired full-time.
He spent the first year with Babcock and two more years with the Chiefs before taking over as head coach of the University of Lethbridge Pronghorns for three years.
In 2005, he was hired as head coach of the Chiefs, eventually leading to the 2008 Memorial Cup championship.
In 2009, his professional career began with a head coaching job with the Chicago Blackhawks AHL farm team, the Rockford Icehogs. He spent three years with the Icehogs, and he was part of the Blackhawks 2010 Stanley Cup run.
On July 8, 2011, Bill rejoined Babcock as an assistant coach with the Red Wings.
“It was a good fit (with Babcock) … we have familiarity,” said Peters, who spent three seasons there before taking over as head man with the Hurricanes in 2014.
Peters looks back at his coaching career, and believes he did it the right way.
“I never missed any steps. It’s hard to be patient when you’re not where you want to be, but you have to remain patient. If you’re a career coach, you have to check off all the boxes to sustain that and to stay at the highest level.”
But coaching is a crazy business.
“It is and you have to laugh or it will drive you insane. It’s a winning business and you have to win and produce players. You have to put a good product on the ice, and I feel we have a good nucleus here.”
Peters has had success at all levels including internationally. He coached the Canadian U18 team to the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament title in 2008, and he was an assistant coach with the 2015 World Championship Canadian team. He was head coach of the Canadians the following season, once again winning gold at the World Championships. He was an assistant coach with Canada at the World Cup of Hockey in 2016.
“You need (winning) as coach. It shows you’re doing the right thing,” he concluded.
Danny Rode is a retired Advocate reporter who can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org