Kootenay Ice head coach Ryan McGill has been named the WHL coach of the year during a ceremony at a league banquet in Calgary on Wednesday afternoon.
McGill is the fourth Ice coach to nab the Dunc McCallum Memorial Trophy over the last nine years, as Cory Clouston won it twice, while Mark Holick also picked up the same hardware.
McGill, who was the nominee for the Eastern Conference, beat out Ryan Huska, the bench boss for the Kelowna Rockets who led the team to a franchise record 52-win season.
“It’s an honour, it’s a great award for our team,” said McGill. “I don’t consider this to be a coaches award because of how hard the players have to work and everybody else in the organization, so it’s a tremendous honour for the organization.
“We’re very proud because there’s a lot of other coaches and a lot of other organizations that had great years.”
McGill, who took over the reigns last summer, oversaw a team that struggled in the first half of the year, collecting only 10 wins by the Christmas break. However, the Ice reversed their fortunes in the second half of the year and launched out of the WHL cellar into the playoffs for their 15th consecutive appearance.
The second half run began with a streak of 12 wins in 13 games, and the Ice shot up ladder and into eighth place, which kept their streak of post-season runs alive.
“I don’t think we’re ever quite satisfied, to be honest, but at the same time, I think we are really proud of how the group came back after the Christmas break and really set their goals in front of them and wanted to be better everyday,” added McGill.
Kootenay faced the Edmonton Oil Kings in the first round, and bounced out after five games. The Oil Kings are currently heading into the championship round for a rematch of last year’s final against the Portland Winterhawks.
McGill, Ice general manager Jeff Chynoweth and head scout Garnet Kazuik will remain in Calgary for the WHL Bantam Draft on Thursday.
The Kootenay head coach was previously nominated for the same award back in 2002 when his team captured the Memorial Cup, but lost out to Bob Lowes, who led the Regina Pats.
After winning the CHL’s top prize, McGill graduated into the pro ranks, coaching in the AHL for seven years and the NHL with the Calgary Flames for two more seasons.
The Flames didn’t renew his contract at the end of the 2010-11 season and he spent a year out of the game working in the oil and gas industry in Alberta.
However, McGill returned to the Ice last year, and the transition from the pro ranks back to major-junior hockey has been pretty smooth, he said.
“The transition has been great,” McGill said. “I still have a long ways to go in learning and being able to deal with 16- to 20-year-olds, and I think I’m doing a good job here, reflecting on that.
“Obviously, next year is a real important year for our organization and I want to make sure that I build those relationships even stronger for next year, and I’m working on that as we speak.”