Wednesday, 18 July 2018

A Major Change

While this might be the worst photo ever taken of Sean Fisher having gotten to know him over the last couple of years, Canada West women's hockey fans will need to get used to seeing Sean's face as he'll be the head coach for the University of Manitoba Bisons women's team this coming fall after it was announced that reigning Canada West and U SPORTS Coach of the Year Jon Rempel would be stepping back for a professional development opportunity. If this feels like a bit of a bombshell announcement, you're not wrong. There's no doubt that missing Jon Rempel will force the Bisons to change in some way or ways. In the interim, however, Sean Fisher will man the helm as the Bisons open their title defence of both the Canada West banner and the U SPORTS National Championship.

If you didn't receive the press release, it reads as follows:
Fresh off a U SPORTS national championship, Bison women's hockey will have a new head coach for the 2018-19 season. Bison Sports is pleased to announce Sean Fisher as the program's interim head coach, as Jon Rempel has received a six-month reassignment of duties to allow for professional development.

Fisher, an assistant with Bison women's hockey for the last four seasons, is looking forward to this new assignment. "The opportunity to lead our program for the 2018-19 season is pretty special, and it's a great professional development opportunity for me personally. We have a number of terrific coaches on our staff and I'm very excited to work with them towards the continued success of Bison women's hockey."

Born in Belleville, Ontario, Fisher ended a minor hockey playing career and began coaching in 2004 with the Sudbury Wolves AAA Bantam program and continued with the Nickel City Midget AAA program while attending Laurentian University. Upon graduation, Fisher began coaching women's hockey, spending three years with the Greater Kingston Ice Wolves.

A move to Winnipeg in 2012 led to more coaching opportunities before Fisher joined the Bison women's hockey coaching staff in 2014. He has been heavily involved in skill development, recruiting, practice planning, special teams, and video over four seasons.

Meanwhile, Bison women's hockey head coach Jon Rempel takes a coaching hiatus after the most successful of his 14 years with Manitoba in 2017-18. The U SPORTS Women's Hockey Coach of the Year, Rempel led the Bisons to a 19-5-3-1 regular season record, the program's third Canada West championship, and their first U SPORTS national championship. Over his career, he has been named Canada West Women's Hockey Coach of the Year five times (2004-05, 2006-07, 2014-15, 2016-17, and 2017-18).

"Jon Rempel has done a world class job of building this program, building the culture in our dressing room and has been instrumental in my development as a coach," said Fisher.

"The women's hockey program is a marquee program in Bison Sports and we are excited to have Sean at the helm for the coming season," said Gene Muller, Athletic Director of Bison Sports. "Sean is a known and respected coach in the program. He will be able to provide a measure of both continuity and newness to the program. We wish him and the players all the best for the 2018-19 season."
Ok, there's a lot to unpack in that release, so let's go through this piece by piece. In the end, you'll see that the Bisons are not be as close to disaster as it may first have seemed.

Fisher referenced the "terrific coaches" that already are part of the program, and these men and women will continue in their roles. Rob Voth, assistant coach, will still handle the defensive coaching with the rearguards, and there is real excitement with five returning starters, a returning seventh defender in Taryn Kokesch, and a rookie who appears to be prepared to accept a large chunk of responsibility in Brielle Dacquay-Neveux. In short, the defence is still in good hands with Rob Voth alongside Sean Fisher on the bench.

Behind the scenes, expect Addie Miles and Lisa Peters to continue their strong coaching and skills development with the players. We saw some players make great steps forward last season, and these two were at the forefront of those players making those steps. Gavin McHale will still work with Lauren Taraschuk, Devon Johnson, and the newest netminding recruit Erin Fargey, and there was no doubt how important he was in helping a freshman goalie in Taraschuk backstop the Bisons to a national championship. Strength and conditioning coach Shawn Preston will do what he does best in helping Manitoba be one of the fittest programs in the nation. In short, the coaching staff outside of Sean and Jon will remain in their roles to continue their work with the program.

From there, Fisher has worked in Jon's systems for the last four seasons, so it's not like there is a coach coming in who wants to change the entire system and institute brand-new concepts. In fact, Sean has an excellent grasp of Jon's system having been the video coach for the last few years, and that means continuity for the players. With Jon's system proved successful based on last season's results, there should be an easy transition for the players with Fisher taking the reins.

As for Jon's professional development, it's going to weird not seeing his steely glare from the back of the bench this season. In all honesty, Jon is an amazing guy whose insight into hockey is miles deep, and I just started to get to know him over the last few seasons off the ice where he's as funny as he is knowledgeable. Whatever he's doing for professional development, I was concerned that this was more of a hiatus for time off considering how devoted he's been over the last fourteen years.

That was worry was put to rest by Sports Information Officer John Gaudes, though, via email when he replied, "Everything is fine with Jon personally, it was a pre-meditated move on his part."

This summer has been nothing but bombshell announcements on The Hockey Show and on HBIC. From Toni Ross announcing her retirement from pro hockey to Fielding Montgomery announcing her sabbatical away from the pro ranks to Jon Rempel stepping back and allowing Sean Fisher to step forward, it's been a summer of big news in women's hockey already! What more can happen? Well, tune in to tomorrow's episode of The Hockey Show to meet an absolutely outstanding woman doing all sorts of amazing things off the ice!

Until next time, keep your sticks on the ice!

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