Olauson chases the puck to St. Stephen – Aces new coach ready to take on fresh adventure

St. Stephen – His life reads like a road map of Canada and the United States, and his theme song could be the country classic “I’ve Been Everywhere”.

Emery Olauson, a native of Canmore, A.B., is the new coach of the St. Stephen Aces junior A hockey team, and will arrive in St. Stephen from Grand Forks, B.C. sometime next week, before the June 9 Maritime Hockey League draft.

It’s not just the cross-country trek on which Olauson will embark in this next phase of his life’s travels. He will now journey with the team, which ended a cellar-dwelling season with 12 wins, 36 losses, and two shutout losses.

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In a telephone interview Monday from Grand Forks, Olauson said he’s up for the challenge, and ready to get to work.

“Things didn’t go the St. Stephen Aces’ way last year and that’s the reality of taking a new coaching job,” Olauson said, and explained when he accepted the gig in Grand Forks, the Bruins were in a 21-year playoff drought.

In the previous three hockey seasons, Olauson was the head coach and general manager of the Grand Forks Border Bruins of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League (KIJHL). In 2016, he was named the KIJHL Coach of the Year.

The Grand Forks team made the playoffs in all of the three seasons since Olauson took over as head coach and GM.

“The bar has been raised, and that’s the plan. We want to raise the bar and make it a great experience for our players in St. Stephen.

“The important thing is that the players know I work for them. If they put in the work and they put in the time, I find it half my job to find them an opportunity to continue doing that,” Olauson said.

“That’s something that we’re really hoping to bring to the organization, the graduating players moving on to what they want, be it CIS, NCAA. We’re going to go to work for our players.”

“On the ice I really like to reward hard work and reward commitment to the process. The Aces – we’re going to just go to work.” – Emery Olauson, new St. Stephen Aces head coach

Prior to joining the Bruins, Olauson was the Director of Hockey Operations from 2013 to 2015 for the Fayetteville Fire Antz of the Southern Professional Hockey League (SPHL) in Fayetteville, N.C. Before the Fire Antz, he was based in Manitoba, as an assistant coach of Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League’s (SJHL) Flin Flon Bombers.

As a player, Olauson suited up for the Estevan Bruins of the SJHL and Topeka Scarecrows of the United States Hockey League (USHL).

He later spent two seasons (2002-2004) in CIS hockey for the St. Thomas Tommies, a Fredericton university based team, before seven seasons in the Central Hockey League CHL), and six with the SPHL.

Olauson retired as a player after the 2012-2013 season in Knoxville, Tenn., with the Knoxville Ice Bears of the SPHL.

“We’ve skipped and jumped all over,” Olauson said with a laugh. “Chasing the puck, so to speak.”

While Olauson will arrive in St. Stephen next week, he said his wife, Lauren, and two young sons will join him sometime in July.

For Olauson, the seeds of interest in becoming a coach were first planted when he was 18-years-old, while playing junior in the SJHL for Dwight McMillan, a coach Olauson described as “one of the most notable coaches in Canada for the most junior A wins in the history of Canadian junior A hockey”.

“The passion for the game that he lived with, and the commitment to the team that we played for, I thought it would be really cool to one day be Dwight McMillan, and be in that position.”

As Olauson moved on to CIS hockey, he said he wound up having a coach – Mike Eagles (with the St. Thomas Tommies)– who made the same strong impact.

“With Mike it was finding a job for yourself within a team and doing that job to the best of your ability. If you’re told to block shots and dump the puck then get really excellent at it. He really kind of instilled maybe a new different angle, but a different understanding of the game.

“He was an inspiration for me wanting to be a coach.”

After Olauson moved on from college, and played professional hockey for 10 years, the sport became so ingrained in his life – something he couldn’t, and didn’t want to quit.

“Hockey became such a big part of my life and really the focus of my life for so long, when hockey was over as a player, I couldn’t really imagine doing something else,” Olauson said, and explained he did dabble in a management position with a time share company, but noted it just didn’t feel like the right fit.

“I never felt the highs and lows, and the victories and the defeats didn’t come, and I really missed (hockey). I missed the atmosphere; for lack of a better cliché, going to war with the guys and finding ways to win and finding new heroes every weekend.”

While it’s no secret the Aces struggled with success last year, and the road to find it will no doubt be rocky, Olauson said he’s excited about the new prospect, and ready to put in the work – something he’s based his philosophy as a coach around.

“On the ice I really like to reward hard work and reward commitment to the process. The Aces – we’re going to just go to work.

“The goals and wins and all those things are rewards in themselves, so I don’t think you need to further reward that; just an everyday approach to getting better, developing and falling in love with the process of winning, rather than winning itself.”

Aces president John Hyslop said Olauson understands the value of a team to the community and noted Olauson has experience with player recruitment as well as coaching and managing.

“Emery has played and coached at a high level and he really understands the junior game,” Hyslop said.

“Emery is a worker and I think he’s going to be a great fit with our hard-working Aces group.”

Original date of publication, June 1, 2018