SHERWOOD PARK – If the Sherwood Park Crusaders was looking to land a head coach who is highly motivation and ready for the challenge, then they had to look no further than Evan McFeeters.
McFeeters, who grew up in Canmore, will lead a young core as the new head coach and associate general manager of the Sherwood Park Crusaders of the Alberta Junior Hockey League (AJHL) following a massively successful season with the national champion, Brooks Bandits.
“I just figured that I had almost outgrown that assistant [coach] role going into my eighth season in the Alberta junior league,” said McFeeters. “I think I was just ready. The challenge of being a head coach and associate GM just excited me to the point that every time I contemplated the decision in my head that’s where I wanted to be and that’s going to be the best step for me and my career.”
On the heels of an important two-year stint as the Bandits' assistant coach, belief had risen that other clubs would approach the 34-year-old McFeeters to take over the reins.
A young and experienced student of the game, McFeeters spent five seasons before Brooks in Canmore as the Eagles' assistant coach and assistant general manager. Prior to that, he was head coach of the junior B Cochrane Generals.
His greatest success came this past season when Brooks won the AJHL championship and Centennial Cup – solidifying themselves as the top junior team in the country.
Still caught up in the whirlwind of winning the national championship on May 29, McFeeters said he was offered a bigger role to stay with the Bandits, but when the Crusaders entered the chat, as it’s said, the north division club made him an offer he couldn’t refuse.
“It is very clear in speaking to him how knowledgeable he is. He is always learning and seeking ways to grow,” said Adam Sergerie, the Crusaders' president of hockey operations, in a press release.
"He’s very popular around the league, is held in high regard and we’re very lucky to have the opportunity to get to work with him moving forward.”
As someone who identifies as Indigenous, a paramount belief for the new head coach is diversity within sports.
McFeeters’ grandfather was Dene from Cold Lake First Nation, and the hockey-obsessed kid grew up watching the path taken to the NHL by former player and head coach, Ted Nolan, who is Obijwe from River Garden First Nation.
While coaching in the AJHL, McFeeters went through a coaching development program with the Toronto Maple Leafs for people from marginalized or minority groups.
“For me, I think it’s huge for diversity within sports,” said McFeeters. “It’s a very, I don’t know the right way to say it, but it’s very white male predominant, and for me, to have these opportunities from maybe coming from a little bit of a different background, is good, but I just want to make sure that I’m doing it so there are people who come after me have the same opportunities as well.”
As first order of business with his new team, McFeeters will fill a few hockey operations positions, including a full-time assistant coach and video coach.
Later this month, a combine camp is expected to take place so he can have a complete evaluation of the team’s players, styles and personalities.
Already, McFeeters knows he has one of the youngest rosters in the AJHL to work with.
“Without the opportunities I had in Canmore and Brooks and learning two different philosophies and perspectives on how to build and maintain an organization, I wouldn’t have felt completely prepared for taking on this challenge,” he said. “I’m excited to create my own path here and build another organization within the league that can have some success.”