About three weeks before signing with the Creston Valley Thunder Cats, Bill Rotheisler knew he wanted to get back into the game. Rotheisler weighed his options, which included an assistant coaching role at the junior A level. After leaving the Rebels in 2017, he had moved up to coach with former Grand Forks Border Bruins bench boss Emery Olauson with the Maritime Junior Hockey League’s St. Stephen’s Aces, and in Alberta alongside Eric Thurston with the Drayton Valley Thunder. Rotheisler lists both as coaches he looks up to, among others he has worked with.
Personal reasons, including being close to his doctors in Edmonton, led Rotheisler to returning to the Thunder Cats as coach-GM, where he had coached before. The Johnny Bucyk Arena offered familiar surroundings, as Rotheisler had spent part of a season in Creston during the 2015/16 campaign.
“I really wanted to get back to running my own program which I hadn’t done in two years. The KI was the natural default plan, close to home and close to family,” says Rotheisler, who spends his offseasons in Penticton, but also has family in Calgary and Edmonton.
Another aspect that Rotheisler liked in taking over from Nick Redding was the hard work the former Thunder Cats coach-GM put in recruiting for the season.
“I didn’t have to come in and start with a blank canvas because of the work Nick put in and because of how hugely helpful he was and willing to be during the transition,” says Rotheisler. “One of the big things, looking at the roster, was who was returning. I felt it was something we could continually make better and work with.”
Players are responding well to Rotheisler, who says he isn’t sure if he has had a better group in the dressing room in his 19 years as coach. Captain Josh Dalquist and Vin Jackson have done a great job making Rotheislers transition easier. The players are buying into what he wants them to do.
Rotheisler considers himself to be an honest coach, who operates with integrity, but doesn’t make guarantees. He only tells players what he can follow through with.
“We don’t guarantee ice time, we don’t guarantee anything to anybody,” he says. “Everybody has to work for it.”
He enjoys the relationships from coaching and tries to make better people. He gets pride from moving players on.
“I think I’m pretty good at it too,” says Rotheisler confidently.
In the time he has coached, he has played a part in helping players reach the professional level, including the NHL.
“I am just as proud of the ones not to make the NHL as much, if not more at times, and that is the vast majority of players I have coached. Whether they made a lower level of pro, or simply found their way off the ice as young men. As far as the players that made the NHL, I am such a small part of their development when I was with Okanagan Hockey Academy, Pursuit of Excellence, Calgary Buffalo Hockey Association as well as a variety of spring, summer and select programs including the U17 world championship, which had many draft eligible and NHL players, and some current stars.”
His perspective on how he coaches has changed from battling cancer. Going through that has helped Rotheisler separate what’s important and what’s not. He’s motivated to keep improving as a coach because he realizes the game changes and evolves. There are many areas he would like get better at, but one is promoting his players. He would like to know more people at a higher level to have a better idea of where to put guys.
What he has gone through the last year validates why he does things.
“I just want to see what is best for every player that comes through here,” he says. “We want to see how far they can go. Curious where that ceiling actually is. It’s important to me that everybody finds out where that is.”