The Saskatoon Blades reached into their own backyard for two new assistant coaches, signing a pair of outstanding home grown men with great hockey pedigrees.
Bryce Thoma, who was born in Saskatoon, signed on to become an assistant to head coach Dean Brockman after spending the last three seasons as the general manager and head coach of the Weyburn Red Wings in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League. Thoma moved to Weyburn after being an assistant coach with the Red Deer Rebels of the Western Hockey League for the previous five seasons.
The Rebels were very familiar with Thoma, who played for the Rebels for four years, including its Memorial Cup winning season in 2001. He was captain of the team in his last year of junior. Afterwards, Thoma went on to play at the University of Saskatchewan, where he also obtained a Commerce Degree. After the U of S, Thoma went on to play pro in the East Coast League and the British Elite League before turning his attention to coaching. Thoma is a proud graduate of the Midget AAA Saskatoon Contacts of the Saskatoon Minor Hockey Association.
”I’m excited for this opportunity to help coach the team I grew up watching as a kid,” says Thoma. “Being from Saskatoon and having the chance to be involved with the Blades makes it feel surreal. I feel very fortunate. The opportunity to go to the rink every day and work with Dean and the rest of the coaches and players is going to be awesome.”
The Blades are also proud to announce the signing of former Blades captain Ryan Keller, who will also join the club as an assistant coach with additional duties in alumni relations. Keller, who played for the Blades from 2001 to 2005, went on to eleven seasons in the pros, wrapping up his playing career in Switzerland last season alongside NHL number one draft choice Auston Mathews. Keller, who is also a graduate of the Saskatoon Contacts, highlighted his pro career with a Swiss championship with Zurich and a Calder Cup with Binghamton.
“I am extremely excited for the opportunity to be back in the Blades organization,” says Keller. “I’m really looking forward to working alongside the rest of the staff to try and bring a championship to the city.”
Head coach Dean Brockman is understandably proud of his two new hires. “When seeking out an assistant coach, we felt someone with experience would be beneficial to us moving forward,” says Brockman. “Bryce has shown as a player and as a coach that he has a tremendous amount of passion for the game. His experience as a defenceman in the league will benefit our young guys in their development.”
“In regards to Ryan, I was very fortunate to have coached him when he was younger,” Brockman adds. “Ryan always had that look in his eyes that he will not be denied. It’s also great to bring an alumni into the fold. Ryan is a first class person.”
The new hires round out a coaching staff that includes, in addition to Brockman, assistant coach Jerome Engele and goaltending coach Tim Cheveldae.
The 2016-17 season is about two months away but Brockman is already excited.
“We were really looking forward to working together. We feel we’re going to take a big step forward this season.”