St. Stephen – St. Stephen Aces former Associate Coach, Bill Rotheisler, has made his choice and is taking on the role of associate coach and assistant general manager of the Drayton Valley Thunder (DVT), in Drayton Valley, AB.
It was a tough decision for Rotheisler, who had focused almost entirely on continuing his journey as a team with former Aces Head Coach and GM, Emery Olauson in Olauson’s new home with the Blizzard d’Edmundston.
“I would say it was well beyond just looking at Edmundston, there was a time I was so focused on going to coach with Emery again that I automatically turned down offers because I felt that I owed it to Emery to give my full focus on making Edmundston work,” said Rotheisler. “I left my car in New Brunswick for the off-season which shows where my intentions were.
“I was very honest with everyone, and certainly missed out on some opportunities, but to be fair, I didn’t want to look elsewhere unless it started looking like it wasn’t going to work out (with Edmundston),” he said. “It didn’t really get to a firm point, we had some good talks with everybody and there was definitely some traction, however, my conversations and traction with the Drayton group really accelerated in the week leading up to the signing.
“Drayton Valley Head Coach Eric Thurston and the rest of the ownership group’s vision, and their detailed outline of team’s short term plan and my own role and future within that plan was critical in the decision to move back home.”
And heading home, being close to family – it’s one of the major considerations Rotheisler had when choosing where he would next hang his hockey stick. He also has experience and knowledge with the Alberta Junior Hockey League (AJHL), and with DVT themselves.
“The AJHL is a very good league, and to be offered such a pivotal role in an organization with such a bright future in it meant a lot, and it became apparent quick that working with Eric and the group here was where I was supposed to be,” said Rotheisler.
“The appeal to the AJHL is it has a reputation of being a very strong league, that doesn’t require player fees to be (financially) supported, and is one of the top leagues for providing NCAA opportunities for players. These things were all important to me personally as well.
“I can’t say enough great things about Edmundston. Emery, Steve and Andre are nothing short of impressive people to talk to. The assistant coach they just hired (Parker) is someone we tried to get last year in St. Stephen – we worked together in Castlegar and he is one of the smartest and innovative guys I have met,” he added.
“Everything works out for a reason, and they got a better fit than I would have been at the end of the day.”
But they say home is where the heart is, and there’s no question although Rotheisler would have enjoyed staying in the Maritime Hockey League, the mountains were always calling. “Drayton Valley is one of those places that I always seem to have a connection with for some reason,” said Rotheisler.
“I have had many players play there. Alberta is home and close to much of my family, friends and colleagues in the sport as well.
“Specifically Drayton Valley became my preferred destination because of the rebuilding that Eric started last season. The youth and skill that he assembled sets the table for the next couple seasons and the type of players that he recruited over the past two years are consistent with my own philosophies.
“In fact, we went after the same players on three separate occasions last season, in which Eric was successful signing all of them over us,” Rotheisler chuckles.
“There are up to seven current and potential players of ours that are all working out on and off the ice in Penticton right now, which just happens to me my off-season home as well. “Knowing what these players goals are, and more importantly, seeing them on a daily basis walk the talk and commit to getting better in the off-season was also a big part of the appeal as well. In the end, that combined with the opportunity to be a big part of the Thunder’s future success, only added to the opportunity to coach with Eric.
“I met Eric at High Performance 2 in 2010 back when he was winning multiple champions as Head Coach at University of Alberta, and working with him is something I have wanted to do ever since.”
And it’s in this position with a coach he knows and a town and team where he already feels at home Rotheisler will be able to bring his tried and true brand of coaching style and general approach on and off the ice. What the role will entail overall is still in the planning stages.
“We are still ironing out some of the details there,” he said.
“A lot of my contribution will come in the same forms as they came with the Aces – helping to provide systematic structure and supporting it with analytics and video. We have made some moves this off season that should provide us with a bit more offense from the back end (acquiring Ethan McLaughlin), and I know that it is an important area that Eric would like the team to improve on and a big part of their expectation with me.
“I will be working with the whole team in a lot of areas, but will be really spending allot of time with the defense, grooming them for the style of play that is necessary to succeed in today’s game,” he said.
So will Rotheisler be able to bring the programs clearly successful for the Aces to DVT?
“Absolutely,” Rotheisler doesn’t hesitate.
“Every year new information and ideas continue to stick to you. There was lots I learned from Emery, much like I will learn from Eric, that you sort of add to your own ideas of what you think works and doesn’t.
”In addition, the style of play that is successful is never static, so we do our best to not only know what worked, but what will evolve and devolve with the changing seasons and leagues. The analytics and video we will bring over for sure, and then systematically Eric and I will continue to sit down and forge the identity of the team based on what we see at camp,” he added.
“But yes, I would bet that a trained hockey eye will notice some similarities,” Rotheisler laughs again.
And what’s the support system in Drayton Valley like? “Although very different communities in other areas, from a hockey fan base perspective I see so many parallels to St. Stephen,” Rotheisler said. He has always been impressed with the support he saw for the Aces by those in the community. “It’s a smaller market team with roughly the same attendance, passionate fans, and a town that the team is clearly important to the people.
“I definitely got a warm familiar feeling when observing and hearing about the Drayton Valley fan base.
“That is what St. Stephen was to me. We had 800 fans a game that did a perfect impersonation of 2000 fans. I loved that.”