Craig Mohr will once again return next year to coach the KIJHL Junior B Ghostriders Hockey Team.
The Calgary-born hockey lover strove for a change in lifestyle three years ago. Drawn by the mountains, he left the big city.
Growing up, Mohr held a successful hockey record. As a 16-year-old left winger and team captain, he led his team to win a national championship, the 1989 Air Canada Cup. This is now known as the TELUS Cup.
After this, Mohr continued playing tier-two Junior A hockey for nearly two years with the Melville Millionaires in Saskatchewan.
He was then traded back to a Junior A team in Calgary, and realized he had no desire to move back to the big city.
“Maybe it was here that I fell in love with small towns,” said Mohr, who loved being a part of the only game in town.
After running his course as a player and aging out, Mohr had a desire to stay in the sport, but did not foresee it becoming a full-time career.
His first year as an assistant hockey coach was in 1994, with the 15-year-old Major Bantam Blackhawks. This was before the age change in this category. He stuck with them as they moved up, spending four years as assistant coach and a few more years as a head coach.
“I had great memories playing in the Calgary Buffalo’s association,” said Mohr. “I finished playing… and I wanted to get back into the association. Who would’ve thought that all these years later, 23 now, I’d still be plying the trade. I’m still as excited as I was back then.
After a few years as head coach at the bantam level as well as the Midget AA level, Mohr began coaching Junior B hockey with the Okotoks Bisons, which brought him out to the Kootenays in 2004. He then spent four years coaching in the KIJHL; two with the Ghostriders, one in Golden and one in Beaver Valley.
After this he returned to Calgary to assist in coaching Midget AAA for a year, and then three years as assistant coach and assistant general manager of the Calgary Junior A Canucks, all the while, keeping his Fernie contacts.
In 2013, the slot opened up for the Ghostriders coaching position, and Mohr was excited to be chosen for his first choice team. This also served as another welcomed lifestyle change.
“Lo and behold, now we’re going into our fourth year, and we’re still motivated, still loving it,” said Mohr.
Over the years, the most challenging part of being a coach has been managing the different generations of hockey players on his team.
In terms of how he has seen the sport itself change, Mohr remembers when hockey was a harder-hitting grind, ‘pound teams into the ground’ mentality. He believes the game hasn’t lost this aspect entirely, but he sees the game as being more speed and sport orientated, with healthier athletes.
“I think that’s the most challenging part, is to try and get 23 players going in the right direction. But you know what? That’s the fun. That’s the fun of dealing with the unique personalities, building a team and building a program. It is the most challenging, but it’s also the most rewarding,” he said.
“I think as a coach, you have to adapt,” Mohr added. “When I first started coaching… Players, you just told them what to do and they did it. Now they ask questions and they want to know why, which isn’t a bad thing.”
Speaking about the KIJHL, he has seen the league expand tremendously. Before, recruiting from Alberta was unheard of. Now, having just returned from scouting in Alberta himself, Mohr watched as eight KIJHL teams competed in a tournament with all of their coaches and managers present. He believes this is a great accomplishment of the league, and speaks to the strength of hockey in the Kootenays.
“It’s a credit to the league that players want to come play here,” said Mohr. “We’ve carved a nice niche out here in Fernie with the KIJHL. Like I said, our league just keeps getting better and better.”
Mohr will begin signing players to the Ghostriders on June 1.
Of the upcoming Ghostriders’ hockey season, Mohr is anticipating a strong year. He will be pushing his team to get through the first round, as they have lost in the first round two years in a row.
“My goal is always, win your division, and then see what happens after that,” he said.
Besides being successful in the league, Mohr looks forward to building good young men and strong humanbeings.
“You want to help them out in life,” said Mohr. “I think as a program, your main goal is to help develop better young men, help them move into adulthood. For us, I think that’s the main thing.”