As the Prince Albert Raiders training camp gets underway this weekend, Dan Gendur will be just as excited as the players.
The former Western Hockey League forward and one-time Vancouver Canucks prospect is about to embark on his first job behind a major junior bench as he’ll serve as an assistant coach for the team this season.
“It’s not just the fact that I’m here and getting ready to start a new job that brings up that level of anticipation,” Gendur said Thursday during the Raiders’ annual golf tournament at the Cooke Municipal Golf Course.
“It’s the fact that I’m around the team staff and the players that are back from this past season. This is a tight knit community that has a lot of support for the Raiders, and I think it’s a very exciting time to be involved with the team.”
The 31-year-old got a taste of what life is like in the WHL last year as he served as an intern with the Raiders at the end of the regular season and during their first round playoff series with the Moose Jaw Warriors.
“That really helps add to the comfort level coming in here for the start of training camp,” Gendur said. “I got to know the players already, so there’s more of a connection with those guys, along with (general manager) Curtis (Hunt) and everyone else behind the scenes.”
It’s been a quick journey through the coaching ranks for Gendur after he finished up his professional hockey career in 2013 following a five-year stint in the minors.
“I actually stepped away from the game for a little bit until I saw an ad in the paper for the Cochrane Generals Junior B team in Alberta,” Gendur said. “I was there as an assistant coach for a year and a half before moving up to the head coaching job two seasons ago, which turned out to be a successful year for us as we won a silver medal at the provincials.
“From there, I moved up to be a head coach in Midget AAA with the Airdrie Bisons last year. I really enjoyed that experience as I got to work with kids that are aspiring to play in the WHL or in Junior A leagues. I think that will help me a lot coming here, as everyone in this league wants to play in the pros.”
That experience of coaching younger players and having suited up in the league is something that Raiders head coach Marc Habscheid believes will make Gendur a good addition to the team’s bench, which now includes long-time WHL assistant coach Jeff Truitt.
“Jeff and I have experience, but Dan bring a lot of good ideas and his rapport with our guys has been really good already,” Habscheid said. “He was a successful player in this league and he’s learned from a lot of good coaches over the years, so we’re going to be picking his brain a bit and help him develop as well.
“Dan loves the game and he’s a great person, which are two things that are non-negotiable with us as a team. We have a tight knit staff and he’s already fit right in.”
A seventh round pick by the Canucks in the 2007 National Hockey League Draft, Gendur had 144 points in 200 WHL games as a member of the Prince George Cougars and the Everett Silvertips.
“When I was in Everett I got the chance to play under Kevin Constantine, who is one of my biggest influences as a coach,” Gendur said. “His attention to detail was impressive and that’s something that I’ve tried to do along the way.
“Another guy I look up to is Craig Didmon, who is with the Victoria Grizzlies in the BCHL. He was my coach when I was in Bantam AAA and he was a huge influence on me when it came to working on skill based drills.”
Gendur’s roles with the team this season are still to be finalized, though he expects to be involved with the Raiders’ power play unit as he worked with them during his internship last season.
“My first priority is to connect with all the players here,” Gendur said.
“The game has changed since I played. It’s no longer about yelling and screaming to get a point across. I like to bring some positive energy and have a smile on my face all the time. Hopefully that rubs off on everyone else.”
Scrimmages begin Saturday
Following player registration and fitness tests earlier in the day, the first scrimmage of Raiders training camp will be held at 6:15 p.m. Saturday at the Art Hauser Centre.
The intrasquad matchups will continue until Tuesday night, when the team will hold their annual Green and White game at 6 p.m.
The scrimmages will be free for fans to attend, while Tuesday’s contest has an admission fee of $2 or a non-perishable food donation for the Prince Albert Food Bank.