© Herald Photo by Dave Leaderhouse
New Prince Albert Raider head coach Cory Clouston is settled into his office at the Art Hauser Centre and anxiously waiting for the start of training camp next week. Clouston was hired in June to replace Steve Young who did not have his contract renewed at the end of last season. Clouston, along with associate coach Dave Manson and assistant coach Tim Leonard, will put about 40 rookies through their paces beginning on Tuesday with main camp set to start on Friday.
His smile tells the whole story.
The Prince Albert Raiders’ new head coach, Cory Clouston, was all smiles this week when asked if he was ready to get back on the ice when training camp begins on Tuesday.
“It’s been a while since I’ve been this excited to get a camp going,” said Clouston from his new office at the Art Hauser Centre.
“We’re just finalizing the camp,” added Clouston who returns to the ice for the first time in over a year since he was let go by he Brandon Wheat Kings at the end of the 2011-12 season. “There are a lot of different phases and we are trying to set things up for camp to run the way we want it to run.”
Clouston became the head coach of the Raiders in June when the Western Hockey League club was looking for someone to replace Steve Young, whose contract was not renewed at the end of last season.
Since his hiring, Clouston has relocated his family to Prince Albert and familiarized himself with his associate coach Dave Manson, assistant coach Tim Leonard and general manager Bruno Campese along with the remainder of the staff.
“I don’t think I could ask for a better group of people to work with,” acknowledged Clouston.
The 43-year-old Clouston brings to the Raiders an impressive resume.
After winning a Canadian Interuniversity Sport title as a member of the Alberta Golden Bears in 1992, Clouston got his first taste of coaching in 1994 when he was an assistant coach with the Powell River Lumber Kings of the British Columbia Junior Hockey League.
From there, Clouston took over the Grand Prairie Storm of the Alberta Junior Hockey League and in 1996 was named that league’s coach of the year. In 1999 he moved to the Kootenay Ice of the WHL where he was an assistant coach for three years before becoming head coach in 2002. As the head coach of the Ice he was twice named the winner of the Dunc McCallum Memorial Trophy as coach of the year and in 2005 he also captured the Brian Kilrea Trophy as the top coach in the entire Canadian Hockey League.
In 2007, Clouston made the jump to the professional level where he guided the Binghamton Senators of the American Hockey League for almost two years before being promoted to the Ottawa Senators to replace Craig Hartsburg. In two years with Ottawa, Clouston’s teams were 95-83-20, but missing the playoffs in the spring of 2011 ultimately cost him his job.
That resulted in his returning to the WHL, but after one season in Brandon, in which he guided the rebuilding Wheat Kings to a tie for fifth place in the Eastern Conference standings with a 39-28-1-4 record, he was let go.
Clouston spent last year watching the league as a fan, but he longed to be back behind a bench and when the opportunity in Prince Albert came to light, he made an inquiry and landed the job.
Now it is back to the trenches, so to speak, but Clouston couldn’t be happier.
“We know what we have to improve on, but at the start there isn’t one thing that doesn’t have a priority,” says Clouston. “Time is limited so it is important we know what we have to key in on.”
The Raiders will begin the process of forming their team with a rookie camp, which starts on Tuesday. There is expected to be about 40 players for the three days of evaluation and from there some will be held over for main camp. Like all WHL clubs, the Raiders will lose a handful of players in early September for NHL auditions, but Clouston is familiar with that part of the business.
“With the rookies there are two halves,” says Clouston. “One will be an opportunity to evaluate and see where they are at and get them more prepared to make the team. The other half will be advancing to main camp.”
“At the main camp we will be looking for those who can compete,” adds Clouston. “We want to make it as intense and competitive as we can have it.”
Clouston admits to having watched the Raiders a bit last year, but he will be relying on Manson and Leonard a lot when it comes to making decisions.
“There is still a bit of a process to get to know each other,” says Clouston. “I believe you have to share as much information as possible. Just because someone is focused on the power play doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be (caught) up on the rest.”
“Coaches are under the same pressure as the players,” adds Clouston.
His experience will be invaluable and his track record breeds success. The players get to experience that all for themselves when the hard work begins for real early next week.