The Swift Current Home Hardware Legionnaires’ season came to a quiet conclusion Feb. 24 with a loss to the visiting Yorkton Harvest. The loss ended the first season for head coach Dale Vossen as the team missed the Saskatchewan Midget AAA Hockey League playoffs with a 9-25-7-2 record.
“I think on Sunday it was good to be done and yesterday I was itching to go again,” said Vossen while watching potential recruits at a Midget AA playoff game last week.
The Legionnaires finished 11th in the 12-team SMAAAHL. “Overall, I was pretty happy with the effort we got night in and night out from the guys. I think the results, I would have been happier with a few more wins, but who wouldn’t be. What happens down the road who knows. I guess it will take a little time to shake itself out.”
The Legionnaires have now missed the playoffs in eight of the past nine seasons.
“I guess if you measure the success of the program on being in the playoffs then we have some work to do,” admitted Vossen. “I think we have made some steps this year. The hockey side of it on the ice I don’t think is probably where we want it to be at this point. We definitely wanted to be in the playoffs and I guess so did the other 11 teams in the league.”
Vossen was joined behind the bench by assistant coach Larry Empey as well as Govenor Kim Bachek.
“I think we have done some good things here. I think there is lots of work left to do. It is just a matter of time before we find out which direction we are going to go here.”
The coaching staff tried to provide stability to an organization that has been plagued by turmoil in recent years.
“We still have our issues. It is a parent issue. As long as there are going to be issues like that then there is going to be turmoil within the organization. I don’t know if you can really sit down and say that you have done a great job of turning it around. I think we have kind of quieted some critics maybe to a certain degree. But every time you quiet one another one pops up.”
He sounded realistic about dealing with parents and players.
“I said at the start of the year and I will say it again that my intention was, and my full purpose was, I know you are not going to please everybody all of the time. I said I wanna please 80 percent of the people 80 percent of the time and I think I did that this year. I am happy with that and I know 100 percent aint never going to happen.”
Vossen has had no shortage of people asking him if he will return behind the bench next season.
“Do I want to be back? You know what, there’s some things going on right now outside the organization that I am involved in that until they play themselves out I don’t know where I am going to be. I don’t know if Minor Hockey whether they are interested in having me back. I haven’t heard anything to the fact that they don’t want me back, but maybe that happens tonight or maybe that happens tomorrow.
“I guess if Minor Hockey comes back and wants me to come back then there won’t be any applications. If they don’t want me back then I guess they will go through the process they do yearly.”
Vossen was unable to conduct exit interviews because the Legionnaires played four games over their final five days of the season. He planned to talk to all of his players shortly after the season.
“I think that I know the guys well enough and I think that they know me well enough. They know where I stand and they know what I expect of them. I am just going to find out who wants to come back and who doesn’t,” he said.
Vossen said that there is no guarantee that all the eligible veterans will be back with the team next season.
“If there are guys that don’t want to be here I don’t want them here. There are other things that weigh into it and I guess time will tell. It is kind of a slippery slope to some of the things that have happened. Definitely things that have happened this year, if I am there next year, will weigh into who stays and who doesn’t.”
The Midget AA Hurricanes and Bantam AA Raiders have both had strong season once again.
“I think there are some very good players. Both teams have had successful programs. The Bantam team is doing very well this year. The Hurricanes won it all last year, they are in the final again in Provincials for the southern part and they are strong in their league.”
“Yeah I think there are a handful of kids here that can play here next year that are playing right in the city here. It all depends on who comes back and how the recruiting process goes with guys from outside this zone and that all starts tomorrow afternoon.”
Vossen is hoping that the top local players will stay in Swift Current and compete for roster spots with the Legionnaires.
“Just because I want a certain player to play for me doesn’t mean he wants to play here,” he cautioned.
“There are all kinds of rumors that run wild in the rink everyday all winter long that people hear it enough and they say no I don’t want to be here for this reason, that reason. I guess what is said in the stands we have no control over,” said Vossen.
“I hope the guys if they come they want to come because of me and not because what somebody has said about me. I am not going to lie to kids, I have never done that before and I am not going to start now promising things that I can’t or won’t keep on my end of the deal.”
The Legionnaires Spring Camp is slated for April 6-7. The camp is by invitation and will feature 60 skaters and eight goaltenders. They are also hoping to have a local camp on March 19 and 21 for anyone who played in Swift Current.
Vossen hopes to cut down to 40 players for the main camp in the fall. “It is so much easier to whittle out from 40 to get to 20 than it is out of 60,” he explained.