Bannister bench boss era begins

September 25, 2015

Drew Bannister may be a rookie head coach in the Ontario Hockey League but the 41-year old bench boss of the Soo Greyhounds has one thing that none of his players have — a Memorial Cup ring.

Bannister, who won a Memorial Cup as a standout defenceman with the Greyhounds back in 1993, is back in town for the only OHL team that he ever skated for.

In taking the reigns as Hounds head coach from Sheldon Keefe, who is now with the Toronto Marlies of the minor pro, American Hockey League, Bannister stands behind the bench of a team that is viewed as a contender within the 10-member Western Conference.

He has inherited a Hounds team that is deep on the forward lines, on defence and in goal.

While it is true that the Hounds have lost several key players from the 2014-2015 edition that was poised to represent the OHL at the Memorial Cup only to underachieve under Keefe and lose to the Erie Otters in the Western Conference final, there is prime veteran talent for Bannister to work with led by a pair of first-round, National Hockey League draft picks — forwards Jared McCann and Zach Senyshyn.

Besides, the Greyhounds were a first-place team in 2014-2015 before the trade deadline deals that brought forwards Justin Bailey and Nick Ritchie and defencemen Anthony DeAngelo and Connor Boland to the Soo — and many of the players who were here before the January acquisitions are back this 2015-2016 season.

In other words, with McCann, Senyshyn and fellow forwards Gabe Guertler and Blake Speers as front-liners and Colton White leading the blueline brigade, the Hounds have high-end, returning parts in place.

There is also veteran depth and two returning goalies for Bannister to work with so while Keefe and the Hounds did blow a glorious shot at a Memorial Cup championship last spring, the 2015-2016 season figures to be one of contention again.

And while Bannister is a rookie head coach, he did serve a three-year apprenticeship as an assistant with the Owen Sound Attack, earning respect among his peers for the work that he did.

To be sure, the Bannister bench boss era is underway with yet-another former Hounds player returning to the team to coach.

Others who have played for and then head-coached the Hounds throughout the team’s 40-plus years of OHL history include Ted Nolan, Marty Abrams, Craig Hartsburg and Denny Lambert.

Interestingly, Bannister played for Nolan on that 1993 Memorial Cup team.

At any rate, a lengthy, 2015-2016 OHL season lies ahead for Bannister and the Hounds.

The Western Conference is not expected to be as strong as the Eastern Conference this season and along with the London Knights, the Greyhounds are seen as top contenders on this side of the 10-team divide.

PHOTO: Drew Bannister makes his OHL head-coaching debut for the Soo Greyhounds tonight.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *