BRITISH COLUMBIA

Marc Habscheid "not too worried" about short-term status with Raiders

11/19/2014 12:35 EST | Updated 01/19/2015 05:59 EST
VANCOUVER - Marc Habscheid's coaching experience with junior, NHL, and Canadian national and Olympic teams did not earn him much job security with his new club.

After more than two seasons away from the bench, Habscheid, 51, is guiding the Prince Albert Raiders of the Western Hockey League following the early-season dismissal of Cory Clouston. But the contract only covers the balance of this season.

Still, Habscheid is "not too worried" about his seemingly tenuous status.

"I've learned in life it's day by day — and you hear that all the time, but I have a good friend of mine, who's 52 years old, that's dying of (pancreatic) cancer," he said.

"It puts life into perspective. You live every day as it comes, and tomorrow is no guarantee. So I'm just enjoying life day to day. You never know when your number is called. You don't try to plan too far ahead."

Habscheid returned to life in the rink after running a ranch that he has owned for many years south of his hometown of Swift Current, Sask. Despite his love for ranching, hockey's pull was too strong.

"I've been around the game since I was three years old," he said. "I really enjoyed ranching. It's something I grew up with, too, but hockey has been a part of me for a long time. So it was good to get back."

He last acted as an executive with the Victoria Royals' parent company on its hockey-related businesses after serving as the club's general manager and coach from 2009-12.

Habscheid's other previous WHL employers were the Kamloops Blazers (1997-99) and Kelowna Rockets (1999-2004), who won league (2002-03) and Memorial Cup (2003-04) titles under his tutelage. A former CHL coach of the year, he also guided Canada to a silver medal at the 2003 world junior championships held in Halifax and Sydney, N.S. At the senior men's level, he led Canada to world championship gold and silver medals in 2004 and 2005, respectively.

In addition, he spent one season as a Boston Bruins associate coach (2006-07) and worked as an assistant with the Canadian men's team at the 2006 Olympics.

"He's played at multiple levels as well," said Raiders general manager Bruno Campese. "So between his playing track record and his coaching track record and his availability, it was really an easy choice."

Habscheid, a former NHL and Canadian Olympic team player, received other coaching offers after leaving the Royals. But he rejected them until getting the call from Campese, whom he has known for many years.

"I had coached in Saskatchewan once before and really enjoyed it," said Habscheid. "It was my first coaching job, in Melfort (with the Mustangs of the SJHL in 1996-97), and (the Raiders offer) just felt right."

Since Habscheid assumed the helm Nov. 1, Prince Albert (9-13-0 overall) has posted two wins and four losses. While introducing an up-tempo style, he is striving to show players how to make good decisions on the ice and do things together off it "rather than staying at home and playing Xbox."

"I think he's a great coach," said defenceman Mackenze Stewart, a 19-year-old Vancouver Canucks prospect.

Stewart added players have bought into Habscheid's methods and NHL experience, and are gelling around him. The Calgary native praised Habscheid for creating a more fun atmosphere following the departure of the "stricter" Clouston, a former Ottawa Senators coach whose "negative" tone was "getting old."

"(Habscheid) is not a yeller, but he does demand a lot," said Stewart. "He expects you to perform at your best at all times. But he also understands, within reason, that there's going to be mistakes on the ice and there's going to be plays that are misjudged. He's not going to hold it against you.

"I think (the coaching change) is helping everybody move forward."

If the community-owned Raiders have advanced sufficiently by season's end, Habscheid might also improve the job security of Campese and the entire hockey operations staff. They are all in the final year of their contracts.

Under the circumstances, Campese said, it was only "prudent" and "fair" to give Habscheid a short-term deal.

"This way, it puts everybody on the same page, everyone's pulling on the same rope and things will be evaluated at the end of the season," said Campese.