A year ago, Kelvin Cech was a rising star in the coaching world.
Named the MJHL’s coach of the year after guiding the Winkler Flyers to a 30-point improvement in 2019-20, he is currently unemployed and looking for work.
In July, he resigned his job with the Flyers after watching general manager Jeff Jeanson and head scout Mike McAulay head out the door before him.
"I’m waiting for the phone to ring so maybe it wasn’t the best time to quit your job in the middle of a global health crisis — especially in the hockey industry when there wasn’t a lot of turnover — but it was the right thing to do," said Cech by telephone from his home on Pender Island, B.C., Friday. "So I’m still looking. I’ve got a couple lines in the water and I’m hoping to hear from a couple of different teams."
How Cech got to this point is a common storyline in junior hockey. Despite signing Cech and Jeanson to contract extensions in February, the not-for-profit Flyers revamped their board of directors and changes were bound to happen.
Jeanson resigned in June and McAulay followed shortly thereafter. Recently retired former NHLer Justin Falk, who grew up in the area, was named GM at the end of June and added the head coaching responsibilities after Cech’s departure.
"I could have stayed, it was 100 per cent my decision to resign," said Cech, a 38-year-old Edmonton product. "When Jeff left I didn’t feel right staying or head scout Mike McAulay — same thing. The three of us had a really good working relationship...
"I chose to go a different direction and look for other opportunities that were a better fit for me. I was surrounded with a lot of really good people there... I’d take a bullet for Jeff. He’s the guy who found me halfway across the country and gave me my opportunity there."
Since then, Cech has reached out to clubs in the junior A, WHL and ECHL ranks. Included on this mailing list was the group building the MJHL’s newest expansion franchise in Niverville. The club, set to begin play in 2022-23, has yet to announce its management and coaching personnel.
"I sent my stuff to them," said Cech. "I know they’re gonna have a lot of strong applicants but man, to start a program from scratch with a community that’s growing. It’s a young community and they want to have fun and they want to see an exciting team and to bring in people and bring in a staff just to lead the way like that would be so much fun."
HOMECOMING FOR ANDERSON: Tyler Anderson wrapped up a four-year college hockey career at St. Cloud State in spring, capped by an appearance in the NCAA title game in spring.
He was hoping to start medical school at the University of Manitoba this fall. But that’s when his best laid plans required an adjustment.
One of 250 applicants interviewed for med school, the 24-year-old Winnipegger was not one of the 110 candidates to gain admission. Instead, he’s enrolled in a two-year Masters program at the U of M’s department of pharmacology and therapeutics while also joining the Bisons men’s hockey program.
"I was disappointed, especially because I still do feel like I will be a great doctor when I do get in," said Anderson, who was a National Collegiate Hockey Conference all-academic selection all four years with the Huskies and graduated with a Bachelor of Science with a major in biomedical sciences.
"It’s just a very competitive field and that’s just the way it goes. A lot of people don’t get in their first try. I just have to try again."
As a grad transfer, however, he is immediately eligible for a fifth year of college hockey and the Bisons’ head coach Mike Sirant has brought in an excellent recruiting crop, adding six former WHLers including defencemen Sam Stewart, Reece Harsch and Chase Hartje, goaltender Liam Hughes and forwards Hayden Ostir and Linden McCorrister.
"It’s gonna be a ton of fun," said Anderson. "I know coming to the locker room I’ve either played with or played against I’d say 85 per cent of the players on the team. It’ll be great."
Mike has been working on the Free Press sports desk since 2003.