On Tuesday morning, the Yorkton Terriers Junior A Hockey Club announced the “termination of contract with Casey O’Brien as general manager and head coach of the team effective October 31, 2017.”
The move comes after a weekend of losses for the Terriers, who went 0-3 on the road to Humboldt and Battlefords.
It’s no secret that the Terriers have struggled out of the gates so far this season. They now sit in eleventh place in the league standings, with a 3-12-2-0 record, giving them eight points.
After the announcement, Terriers president Dave Baron said it was a very tough decision for the organization to make.
“The timing was just so terrible, but we have to put the team first. We felt it had to be done,” offered Baron.
The poor timing he refers to is in regards to O’Brien’s wife, Laura, who is on the mend from back-to-back heart attacks a few weeks ago.
Baron said that at this time, it just wasn’t a good fit.
“Can Casey coach? Yes. Do we have players who can play? Yes. But the synergy just wasn’t there,” he said.
In his time with the Terriers, O'Brien racked up some noteable accomplishments.
He joined the team as assistant coach in August of 2011. During his long reign with the team, the Terriers captured two division wins (2013, 2014), an SJHL regular season pennant (2014), two league championships (2013, 2014) a Western Canada Cup championship (2014) and an RBC Cup National Championship in 2014. He was also the first ever recipient of the SJJL Dwight MacMillan Assistant Coach of the Year award for the 2015/2016 season.
Stepping up as the interim head coach/GM is assistant coach Mat Hehr. Hehr joined the team as assistant coach last November. He will run the team until the position is officially filled.
The job posting will be online within a few days for those who are interested in applying. Baron said they’re hoping to fill the role quickly, but also do not want to rush it and make a poor decision.
Hehr spoke to Yorkton This Week after the announcement was made, and had nothing but credit to give to O’Brien.
“It’s been a whirlwind. Obviously first and foremost I want to thank Casey for everything he’s taught me, and giving me the opportunity to get back into this league,” he said. “The amount of dedication that he, his wife Laura and his son Caleb have put into this team is outstanding. I’ll always consider them like family and I’m extremely grateful for everything that they’ve put into this team and organization.”
With only a few days to practice with the team until their next game, Hehr said he has a few things he’ll work on.
“Tweaking a few systems, and just really putting the emphasis on d-zone. Obviously the last few games we gave up way too many shots, so we really need to clean up our d-zone moving forward.”
This weekend, the team will head to La Ronge to face the Ice Wolves in two contests. The Ice Wolves are currently in twelfth place in the league with a 2-12-0-1 record for five points.
Hehr said with a big weekend coming up, he and his players will be trying to keep their focus on the ice.
“The focus right now has to be on these upcoming games in La Ronge. There’s obviously lots of distractions going on, so my goal is to keep the players focused on the goal at hand and that is coming away with two wins this weekend,” Hehr offered.