It doesn’t matter what obstacle is put in front of him. Bryan Maxwell, former coach of the Spokane Chiefs, finds a way to take it to the limit.
Only a year after his league-mandated suspension for assaulting a referee after a playoff game, Maxwell is in line to become only the third coach/manager in major junior hockey history to win three Memorial Cup championships.
If the Lethbridge Hurricanes win the Memorial Cup tournament that starts Saturday, former Chiefs assistant Parry Shockey will be the coach of record. He’s the man behind the bench.
But as director of hockey operations and self-described co-coach, Maxwell has a shot at his third ring.
Only Leighton “Hap” Emms won four Memorial Cup titles (in 1952 and ‘54 as a coach and ‘65 and ‘68 as general manager).
Bob Brown, now with the Tri-City Americans, won three as GM of the Kamloops Blazers, but Maxwell stands to be the first to win the Cup with three different franchises - Medicine Hat, Spokane and Lethbridge.
Maxwell this week all but confirmed an earlier report that he’ll return as head coach next year. “I was hired as coach and GM,” he said Wednesday.
Shockey is under contract for another year but his success could put him in line for a head-coaching job elsewhere.
“It’s been a real good situation this year,” said Maxwell, whose original suspension prevented him from coaching for one year. “The three of us (Maxwell, Shockey and Maxwell’s brother Randy) bounce ideas off each other.”
Lethbridge (47-22-3) wrapped up preparations for its Sunday morning opener with Chicoutimi (37-30-3), champions of the Quebec league. The host team is Hull, Quebec (48-19-3). The Oshawa Generals are in as champions of the Ontario league.
Lethbridge’s games Tuesday with Hull and Wednesday with Oshawa are on Canadian channel TSN, but may be tape-delayed.
Chicoutimi and Oshawa open the tournament Saturday.
The fourth-place team is out after Thursday’s game. Semifinals are a week from today. Finals are the following afternoon.
Maxwell, who abruptly quit as Chiefs coach in midseason three years ago, was hired in Lethbridge Nov. 7, 1995. Quickly building on what he called a solid foundation, he imprinted his trademark toughness on the Hurricanes, augmenting it with shrewd acquisitions.
The key was bringing in versatile defenseman Chris Phillips at the Jan. 24 trade deadline. Phillips quarterbacked the Hurricanes power play. Big (6-3, 210) with a hard shot and super skating skills, Phillips is a future NHL star.
Maxwell also acquired well-traveled goaltender Blaine Russell, who played here briefly as backup at the start of the ‘95-96 season. Lethbridge went 13-0 through the WHL playoffs with Russell in net.
Defenseman Shane Belter (who came from Seattle) “was a very big acquisition,” Maxwell said. “He’s 19 and a right-handed shot - the only right-handed shot we have.”
The Hurricanes traded four promising players, including their tough guy-designate next year, Cam Severson, to bring in veterans who made the difference this year.
As for this year’s run at the ring, Maxwell has assembled a big club that can skate, play with discipline and fight.
“We’ve been able to adjust to what other teams do against us,” Maxwell said.
The nicest part of the drive to his third WHL title?
“It was very satisfying to light this city up,” Maxwell said. “The old hometown (he grew up in Lethbridge) was unbelievable. The franchise is starting to build a tradition.”
Asked if he’s looking to move to the NHL, Maxwell said, “I’d like to sign another contract here (first).”
Cox hits ground running
Brett Cox, recently released as Chiefs assistant coach, is in the running for at least three positions.
Cox, 30, spent last week in Edmonton with evaluators and instructors at the Canadian under17 program. He said he’s interviewed for two Tier II coaching positions and is considering an opportunity in Japan.
But his first choice would be to land another WHL assistant’s job.
“I left a safe situation with a coaching opportunity at a college to come here (to replace Shockey, when the Lethbridge job opened),” Cox said. “But I’d do the same thing again. It was an outstanding experience. I’m a better person and a better coach for having done it.”
Cox’s contract was not renewed when the Chiefs said they wanted someone with more experience, anticipating coach Mike Babcock’s move to pro hockey, possibly by next year.
The Chiefs are the hosts for next year’s Memorial Cup.
Although former Kamloops Blazers coach Don Hay is available after being fired by the Phoenix Coyotes, the general manager of the Blazers says Ed Dempsey “at this point” is still expected to be behind the bench next year. Dempsey has agreed to a one-year contract extension, GM Stu MacGregor said this week… . The Tri-City Americans expect Scott Gomez to join them, rather than attend Colorado College. Gomez, 17, told the Vancouver Sun this week that he’s “pretty much decided” to enter the WHL. Gomez, a goal-scoring center from Eagle River, Alaska, was once the listed property of the Chiefs, who dropped him after Gomez’s parents told them that their son would attend college. If Gomez decides to cast his lot with the Americans he could make a huge difference in Tri-City, Chiefs coach Mike Babcock said.
, DataTimes ILLUSTRATION: Color Photo
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