Chiefs’ Nachbaur, Johnson honored with WHL awards
Spokane Chiefs coach Don Nachbaur completed a triple play and Tyler Johnson was recognized as a class act when the Western Hockey League handed out its major awards in Calgary, Alberta, on Wednesday.
Nachbaur received the Dunc McCallum Memorial Trophy as the Coach of the Year for the third time – each with a different team.
Johnson picked up the Brad Hornung Trophy for the Most Sportsmanlike Player.
Johnson was also runner-up for the Four Broncos Memorial Trophy, which goes to the Player of the Year. That went to Red Deer goalie Darcy Kuemper, who was a third-round draft pick of the Spokane Chiefs in the 2005 Bantam Draft, the same year they took Johnson in the 11th round.
The 2011 Bantam Draft is today.
In Nachbaur’s first year in Spokane the team won 48 games and had 102 points, third all time in the 26-year history of the team.
“I’d like to point my finger directly at the players,” Nachbaur said. “I had great leaders. I had tremendous allies among the older guys who set the example for the younger guys. We got it done together.”
He is only the second coach to win the award three times and is the only one to do it with three teams. Nachbaur was honored while with Seattle in 1995 and with Tri-City in 2008. Bryan Maxwell is the only other Spokane coach to win the award, getting that in 1992.
Nachbaur, who is sixth in career wins with 479, was a player with the Billings Bighorns in 1977-78 when their coach, Dave King, received the award.
Johnson is the third Chief to win the sportsmanship award, joining Steve Junker in 1992 and Pat Falloon in 1991. Johnson led the WHL with 53 goals and was second in the scoring race with 115 points. He only had 48 penalty minutes. He signed a NHL free-agent contract with the Tampa Bay Lightning in March.
“I like to think of it as I play hard, I play with a lot of passion, but I don’t put my team down with penalties and I respect other teams and other players,” Johnson said.
It meant even more for Johnson after meeting Hornung at the awards luncheon. Hornung was an 18-year-old defenseman for Regina when he was paralyzed after crashing into the boards during a game on March 1, 1987.
“He’s a great guy,” Johnson said. “It’s quite an honor. To be part of that was pretty special.”
Ray Whitney in 1992 remains the only Chief to be MVP, but Spokane has a tie to this year’s winner. After drafting Kuemper, they picked up a free-agent goalie, Dustin Tokarski, to team with Kevin Armstrong. With Kuemper stuck behind those two, Spokane traded him Red Deer in December 2007 for a seventh-round pick in the 2009 Bantam Draft. Meanwhile, Spokane won the Memorial Cup in May 2008.
Kuemper, who played 19 seconds in one 2007 playoff game with the Chiefs, led the WHL with 45 wins, 1.86 goals-against average and .933 save percentage, while tying the league record with 13 shutouts. The Rebels won the Central Division title for the first time in seven seasons.
Kuemper was selected by the Minnesota Wild in the sixth round of the 2009 NHL draft.
Kuemper also received the Del Wilson Award for Goalie of the Year, beating out Spokane’s James Reid.