Ian Gordon has started the next chapter in his hockey career. He retired from his professional puck-stopping days to become the goalie coach for the Western Hockey League’s Seattle Thunderbirds.
“I planned on getting into coaching this year,” said Gordon, who grew up in Yorkton. “I was actually planning on coaching in Europe this year, but that fell apart last minute so I ended up with the Thunderbirds.”
Gordon was originally hopeful he would land the Winnipeg Jets’ goalie coach opening, but the organization decided to go with former T-Birds goalie coach Dusty Imoo. This, however, is what opened up the opportunity for Gordon with the Thunderbirds.
“It’s kind of strange how everything worked out,” said Gordon. “Obviously, it would have been great to get a coaching job in the NHL. But I’m happy with how everything worked out. Seattle is a great organization and I am happy they chose me.”
This year will be a test for Gordon in Seattle. They don’t have a proven No. 1 goaltender with Brandon Glover graduating from junior in the offseason. Not to mention, their expected duo, Justin Myles, 18, and Danny Mumaugh, 17, only have 26 games in the WHL between them.
“I think we have two capable goalies,” said Gordon. “I’m not too worried about them. They are both young and have a lot of potential. I’ll know more about them in camp, but right now I think we will be fine with them.”
It is quite possible Thunderbrids GM Russ Farwell could land a goalie in a trade. Since Los Angeles Kings prospect Patrik Bartosak will be returning to the Red Deer Rebels for his overage season, 19-year-old Bolton Pouliot could be on the market. In addition, if Jackson Whistle shows vast improvements in his mechanics, Kelowna Rockets GM Bruce Hamilton may look at the possibility of trading 20-year-old Jordan Cooke. Gordon, however, thinks it’s ‘premature’ to look at other puck-stopping options at this point.
“It’s definitely premature to look at trades,” he said. “We still have camp and pre-season to go through. I think we will see one of Seattle’s goalies prove he’s a No. 1 goalie. I don’t think we will need to look elsewhere for a goalie.”
Even though he won’t be coaching him, Gordon is excited to see centre Matthew Barzal, the top pick of the 2012 bantam draft, in camp.
“I watched him play in Calgary and he’s a very talented player,” said Gordon. “He has a lot of skill and it will be cool to be on the same team as him.”
Gordon is very familiar with the Dub as he played in the league for three years in the early 1990s, spending time with the Swift Current Broncos and Saskatoon Blades. The contacts and relationships he developed while in major junior played a role in landing the opening in Seattle.
“Someone I know who formerly played for the Thunderbirds put in a good word for me,” said Gordon. “Contacts always play a big role in this business. And they know I played in the WHL and played pro, so they know I’m familiar with the league and what it takes to get to the next level.”
Following his major junior days, Gordon went onto play in the American Hockey League, International Hockey League and later spent 13 years in the Deutsche Eishockey Liga, AKA the Germany Elite League. In Germany, the 38-year-old put his name in the history books as the DEL’s all-time leader in starts with 700-plus.
“It was great to be able to play as long as I did,” said Gordon. “I got to play at 37-years-old and not many goalies keep on playing that long with younger goalies coming up. I was very happy with how many career went when I officially retired. I got to play for a long time and I won a championship in Germany in 2004.”
Germany was much more than just a place to collect a check for playing hockey to Gordon. He sees the value in travelling around the world and sharing the experience with his family.
“You couldn’t measure my time in Germany in dollars,” he said. “It was a great experience to see different cultures and everything. I wouldn’t trade that experience for anything. And my family also got to experience it. It means a lot to them as well.”