Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Hockey Bisons loaded with coaching talent

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MIKE Sirant knew what traits he wanted in new assistant coaches. He found them in Sonny Mignacca and Rob Friesen.

"We were looking for people with a lot of hockey knowledge and expertise, who were well respected within the hockey community. They had to be enthusiastic about coaching and have good teaching skills," say Sirant, head coach of the University of Manitoba Bisons men's team.

He adds that he's "very excited" about having Friesen and Mignacca join his coaching staff.

"They'll be a tremendous asset to the program. Along with returning assistant coaches Greg Lacomy and Rob Bell, I believe we'll have an outstanding coaching staff," says Sirant, noting that his coaching staff are all part-time volunteers.

A native of Winnipeg, Friesen played centre for the Bisons from 1989-'92 and amassed a total of 107 points in 106 games, good for 48th in Bison career scoring. He also finished in the top 10 in Canada West in scoring in both the 1990-91 and 1991-92 seasons.

"I'm ecstatic and really looking forward to the opportunity and challenge," says Friesen, 35, who works in commercial real estate.

Following his career at the U of M, Friesen spent three seasons overseas in Great Britain, one in Germany and parts of four seasons in the East Coast Hockey League and the former Western Professional Hockey League (now the Central Hockey League). In the WPHL, he wore many different hats with the Monroe Moccasins and the Abilene Aviators, including player, player/assistant coach and assistant general manager.

Last year, Friesen was coach of the Springfield 98s of the Hanover Tache Senior Hockey League in southeastern Manitoba. His team finished in second place with a record of 18 wins and eight losses.

"My playing days are over because of an eye injury when I blocked a slapshot and lost part of my vision," says Friesen, who attended high school at Notre Dame College in Saskatchewan, where he played on the team that won the national Air Canada Midget Championship.

Friesen's role on the Bisons will be to work on the offensive aspect of the game, as well as video preparation and co-ordination.

Mignacca, another local product, will be the Bisons goaltending coach this season. He spent four years with the Medicine Hat Tigers of the Western Hockey League and was drafted 213th overall by the Vancouver Canucks in 1992. After turning professional, Mignacca split his time between the American Hockey League and the ECHL, spending parts of two seasons with the AHL's Syracuse Crunch. In 1997, he moved overseas and played two years in England before returning to North America to finish his career with the Tupelo T-Rex of the WPHL.

"It's an opportunity I'm looking forward to it," says Mignacca, 29, who runs the International Goaltenders School with his brother-in-law, Stan "Pokey" Reddick, also a former professional goalie.

"I've been away from the game for two years and I've missed it. I'm focused on this now."

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 13, 2003 $sourceSection$sourcePage

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