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Paul Strand To Lead Huskies Hockey

07/07/2011... Fort McMurray - Keyano College Athletics announced today that Paul Strand has been officially named as head coach of the Keyano Huskies men’s hockey program which will enter their inaugural season in the Alberta Colleges Athletic Association in 2012-2013.

Strand, 39, comes to the Huskies after serving six seasons as the Youth and Amateur Hockey Coordinator for the Carolina Hurricanes of the National Hockey League.

“Part of me always wanted to come home,” said Strand, a native of Fort McMurray. “This (Huskies men’s hockey head coach) sounded like something that I could do and something that was pretty special as I was getting in on the ground floor.

“I am really excited to come back and kind of show what I have learned. One of the biggest challenges to be tackled is the recruiting. Keyano has a lot to offer and one of my jobs will be in convincing potential (student/athletes) that we have a lot of offer both on and off the ice.”

It’s been a long round trip for Strand, who will be returning to Fort McMurray this September.

Moving to Fort McMurray at the age of seven, Strand dabbled in the sports of baseball, basketball and fast pitch.

“Baseball was really my love,” admits Strand, from his home in Raleigh, North Carolina. “But in Fort McMurray, hockey is the sport and I was drawn back to that the older I got. I did attempt basketball in high school (Father Patrick Mercredi Community High School) and in Grade 11 made the junior team but I had problems dribbling the ball with my left hand.”

Instead, Strand took his talents to the hockey rink and along the way came a few breaks.

“I broke my wrist playing hockey for the Midget Oil Barons AA. That same season I was called up and played one game for the (AJHL) Fort McMurray Oil Barons.”

Due to various circumstances, dreams of playing for the hometown team were never realized as Strand suited up for the Fort Saskatchewan Traders from 1990-1992.

In the fall of 1992 Strand made what he considers was the “best decision of my hockey career” in joining the U of Alberta Golden Bears hockey program.

“The program itself is second to none for any other hockey program in North America,” says Strand, who in five seasons accumulated an amazing 86 goals, 155 assists in 192 regular season games. “The years of tradition, winning and history is something that continues to perpetuate itself in hockey circles.

“Take a look at coaching staffs across North America and they are staffed with former Golden Bears.  I was fortunate to be taught by Bill Moores my first two seasons and by Rob Daum my last two years. Bill Moores gave me an understanding of the tradition and what it takes to play at a high level regardless of your ability.

“He demanded success and class. These are things that can take a young punk, which I was back then, and instil confidence and work ethic in order to succeed.”

While a member of the Golden Bears, Strand assisted the team to two Canada West championships. He was also named Golden Bears MVP twice.

Strand also pays tribute to a Fort McMurray politician who had guided him in the right direction.

“Guy Boutilier (Regional Municipality of Wood Buffalo member of the Legislative Assembly of Alberta) my Bantam coach in Fort McMurray, instilled in me the belief that I could do anything I set my ability to. He expected me to be good every night and in turn I expected it from myself.”

Following university graduation - History Major/German minor -Strand, a left winger, decided to take the next step in turning pro. From 1997 to 2004 he played for various teams in the ECHL, Central Hockey League and Germany.

“Semi-pro was something that I would never change. Sometimes it came as close as to the movie Slap Shot as you can get. Although the money is not very good and the body is hurting as I get older (things people never really tell you as you are chasing the dream), the experience and people I met are worth it.

“I was traded to Raleigh (Icecaps) my first season from Baton Rouge (Kingfish) and I knew within an hour that this (Raleigh) was the place I wanted to live the rest of my life. The south is such a wonderful place and North Carolina is the best of the south. I still have friends to this day who I met that first season in Raleigh. I still keep in touch with many folks in the booster clubs of all the cities I have played.

“This first season also gave me the best personal highlight of my hockey career as I set an Icecap record for most goals in a game with five (Texas Hat Trick). It was a very special night and I managed to score against two very good goalies with NHL experience, Daniel Berthieume and Dave Gagnon. The next game I followed it up with a Hat Trick (three goals) against Hampton Roads to set the minor pro record for most goals in two consecutive games with eight. It was a good week.”

Playing overseas (Hamburg Crocodiles) was another highlight in the journey for the affable Strand.

“It was awesome to be able to learn another culture for a full year and also be considered a somewhat celebrity. It allowed us to be able to see some of the culture and country that we may never have been able to see as a tourist. If I could change one thing I would have spent a few more years playing in Europe.”

Sooner or later the bumps and bruises do not lie. Truth lets you know that it is time to hang up the skates and seek a new direction.

In 2002 after a “serious concussion” while playing for the Greensboro Generals, Strand semi-retired and started coaching youth hockey in North Carolina. Such was his dedication that when called back to the ice to play for the Cincinnati Cyclones the following season, he would make the 719 kilometre drives back to North Carolina on a regular basis to continue his volunteer coaching duties.

This passion led to a new direction on his hockey journey.

 “I moved back to Raleigh in late 2004 and was making plans to start my own business training kids on and off the ice. Then the NHL lockout ended and I got a call from the Hurricanes asking if I would like to interview for a job they were creating. There was a push by NHL teams to give back more to the community now that the lock out was over and they needed a person to oversee this.

“I had a background in hockey and by this time I was volunteering quite a bit and the resume was looking good. So that is what led to this job.”

In a nutshell, Strand oversaw promotion and development of youth amateur hockey in North and South Carolina.

“We now have our name and brand on lots of kids. I remember the impact that the Oil Barons brand had on the 13 and 14 year old bantam/midgets and I know that it can only help. I would have loved to have worn a Junior Edmonton Oilers jersey growing up.

“We have also helped out with getting a local Special Hockey Association that is dedicated to helping kids with autism and other mental/physical disabilities to play hockey. The Hurricanes give support in terms of finances, advertising and ice time.”

Of his return to Fort McMurray: “It still hasn’t really sunk in. I’ve learned a lot about hockey the last 21 years and want to pass that on. I am really excited about being part of the Keyano College Huskies program.”

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