The last time Dave Lowry coached in the Western Hockey League, he led the Calgary Hitmen to 59 wins in 72 games.
Add in the Hitmen’s 14 playoff wins from that 2008-09 season and Lowry was behind the bench for 73 wins in total. That’s more than three times the amount of wins the Victoria Royals got in 2011-12.
It’s a fresh start for the Royals, with Cam Hope named general manager on July 6 and Lowry named head coach on July 19. But there’s no denying the new bosses have their work cut out for them.
“Opportunity is the reason I’m here,” said Lowry, who was with the Calgary Flames as an assistant coach the past three seasons.
“As soon as Royals owner Graham Lee said (Marc Habscheid would be replaced) by two different positions, general manager and head coach, it solidified my interest. I called the team to let them know I was interested.
“For me it’s coaching only, I’m not interested in the GM side of it.”
Lowry, a player’s coach, said he’ll push an up-tempo style of play.
As a pro, Lowry played 19 years in the NHL, starting in 1985 with the Vancouver Canucks, and ending in 2004 with the Calgary Flames. He moved into an assistant coaching role with the Hitmen in 2005-06 and was groomed into the head coaching role under friend and fellow ex-NHLer Kelly Kisio, who handled the GM and head coaching duties.
In 2007, Lowry’s name tag switched from assistant to associate as he took more responsibility on the bench, eventually taking over the head coaching duties from Kisio in 2008.
“Kisio is a good friend and we had a great professional relationship that allowed me to grow into the role of head coach,” Lowry said.
The expectations for that 2008-09 season was to rebuild the Hitmen, Lowry added, but instead the team finished first in the WHL regular season and lost to the Kelowna Rockets (and Jamie Benn) in the WHL finals.
“Just goes to show if you establish a good leadership group and culture it looks after itself.”
Lowry and Hope are now in the process of getting to know each other and the team.
“There was about 20 names that came forward for the coaching job, all with legitimate backgrounds, enough to be coaching at the WHL level,” Hope said.
“The process started even before I was announced as GM (on July 6). We had to be ruthless and whittle the list down to 10, but at no time did anything happen that made me second-guess Lowry as the top candidate.”
With the coaching role filled Hope, and Lowry, can turn to the draft, rookie and training camps, which will begin on Aug. 18, 22 and 25, or thereabouts.
WHL in the family
Dave Lowry has two NHL drafted sons, Joel, who played with the Victoria Grizzlies from 2009 to 2011, and Adam, 19, who will return to the Swift Current Broncos this year.
During Joel’s time in Victoria, he signed a scholarship deal with Cornell University and was selected by the Los Angeles Kings in the fifth round of the 2011 draft, having been previously passed up in the 2010 draft. The Winnipeg Jets selected Adam in the third round of the 2011 draft.
Dave is confident that Adam would refuse to come to the Royals, in such a situation that he was available.
“As a father, I want to say no, but then I’d love to have him. But I don’t think he’d want to come. Even so, it would have to be a very specific situation where, as a player, he’d be what we needed.”
Wouldn’t be the first time with this franchise, as one of Marc Habscheid’s first moves when he was hired as the Chilliwack Bruins GM in 2009 was to trade for son Zach’s playing rights.
The Vancouver Canucks drafted Lowry in the sixth round of the 1983 draft from the OHL’s London Knights. The Toronto Maple Leafs picked Russ Courtnall seventh overall that year from the Victoria Cougars.