Bombers assistant coach Cole McCaig isn’t going anywhere - at least, not for another two years.
The Brandon native has agreed to an extension with the club that will see him continue as the Bombers’ assistant coach for the next two seasons. McCaig will be on the Bombers’ bench until the end of the 2022/23 season.
Long before stepping behind the bench at the Forum, McCaig was a Bomber player, suiting up for the team from 2011 to 2014. After wrapping up his junior career, McCaig joined the Marian University Sabres, an NCAA Division III program in Wisconsin. Following four seasons at Marian, McCaig rejoined the Bombers as an assistant coach in 2018.
The three seasons he’s spent since have been far from typical years - first, a 2018 season that almost ended with a reverse sweep of the top team in the SJHL, then two seasons ended early due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I think one of the biggest things is to expect the unexpected,” he said.
“Every day when you’re coaching, you’re faced with a new and unique challenge. That’s what makes it really exciting about this job - you have to be on your toes every day.”
During both of his runs with the team, McCaig has worked with Bombers head coach and general manager Mike Reagan - first as his coach, then later as a mentor. It was Reagan who decided to bring McCaig back to Flin Flon - when McCaig was leaving Marian, he called Reagan to ask for a resume reference for possible coaching jobs. Not long after, Reagan and the Bombers offered him the assistant coach job he now holds.
“There’s been some changes for sure, but Mike and I have always had a really good relationship, even when I played. He was a guy who I respected a lot as a coach and I really valued his opinion on the way I needed to play,” said McCaig.
“We have that kind of relationship as coaches where he can bug me a bit and I can give it to him right back. That definitely hasn’t changed by any means - our relationship hasn’t changed too much.”
As the assistant coach, McCaig is most often tasked with overseeing the Bombers’ defence and penalty kill, assignments that, as a former forward, took some time to get sorted. Those boxes have since been ticked - in the 2019/20 season, the Bombers killed off 83 per cent of their penalties and gave up the fifth-fewest goals in the league.
“Away from the rink and in the offseason, I try to do my homework as much as possible, watching videos on the little things of the defencemen, just helping them out,” he said.
“With the downtime we’ve had, I’ve been watching a lot of NHL hockey lately and seeing what the Victor Hedmans and the Morgan Riellys do and seeing what makes them such unique defencemen - it’s a lot of the little things they do.”
Along with McCaig’s extension comes a change in his role with the team. McCaig will now pull triple duty with the team, serving as an assistant coach, the team’s marketing coordinator and now, as the team’s assistant general manager, making personnel decisions alongside Reagan. Jon Klassen, the Bombers’ head scout who had previously served as the team’s assistant general manager, will now be the team’s director of player personnel.
“The last couple years, I’ve been doing some of the assistant general manager side already, but it’s kind of nice to have that title. It’s a bit of icing on the cake - it’s going to look good on a resume and I know from speaking with Mike, there’s going to be some additional duties, which I’m totally on board with,” said McCaig.
McCaig admits he doesn’t want to be an assistant forever. His goal is to be the head coach of a hockey team and in the Canadian junior ranks, that almost always means double duty as a team’s general manager. McCaig said the extra behind-the-scenes experience will help him prepare for that role if it arises.
“The end goal is to become a head coach someday and I want to be as prepared as possible on the general manager side of things. I’m obviously really, really happy to add that title,” he said.