Liam McOnie remembers the run the North Okanagan Knights took to the KIJHL championship in 2012-13.
The Armstrong native was in high school, and while the Knights lost the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League championship to the Castlegar Rebels, he recalls “how badly I wanted to play there.”
“I didn’t get that opportunity as a player,” says McOnie, a goalie who played in the North West Junior Hockey League and Prairie Junior Hockey League. “It’s just as exciting, if not more exciting to be part of it as a coach.”
McOnie takes over the coaching duties from Dean McAmmond, who left the organization, and is also the GM. Along with this chapter being exciting for him, he views it as a great opportunity. Being on the bench brings a sense of pride and motivates him to try and bring home the Teck Cup championship.
“I remember watching the run in the Spring of 2013 and the whole town just came around the team and how loud the building was,” he says. “How passionate the fans were. It would be great to bring that back to Armstrong.”
McOnie was the Knights’ goaltending and assistant coach for the past five seasons learning from McAmmond, as well as John Van Horlick and Bryant Perrier – all he said played a big role in his development as a coach. More recently with McAmmond, the retired NHL player taught him about the structure of the game, especially details in all three zones.
As McOnie worked with the Knights, he was also a goaltending coach with the WHL’s Tri-City Americans. He learned about the players’ mindset and the approach they bring each day. What it takes to improve and get to the next level.
McOnie, who turned 26 today, considers himself a players coach and wants to relate to his players and be approachable.
“At the same time, I’m going to push as hard as I can to make them as good as they can be,” he says.
And once the regular season begins, Oct. 2 in Sicamous for them, he wants them to play a style similar to the back-to-back, Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning. Especially when it comes to their structure, discipline and attention to detail.
“The focus that they bring every day is obviously second-to-none,” he says. “The skill is obviously at a different level, but there is no way that it’s not impossible to replicate that.”
As McOnie said, his goal is to win the Teck Cup Championship, but that won’t come at the expense of developing his players.
“Player development is No.1.”