The Las Vegas Wranglers begin the season with two new bosses behind the bench, Head Coach Mike Madill and Assistant Coach Aaron Power, both who are former players for the team, and together are making the transition to coaching. Aaron Power had decided at the end of last season, after playing the year in Italy, that when he came home he would turn from hockey to firefighting. It was the right time in his life to stop, he had just started a family, and he was looking ahead into the future.
“I could’ve played hockey until I was 40 if I had wanted to, but it was one of those life changing decisions that I had to make and I don’t have any regrets. I got to play a game I love for a long time and met a lot of good people and I’m happy where I am at today.”
He began the hiring process at the local fire department in Las Vegas and starting in April he worked for the Nevada Division of Forestry as a seasonal firefighter. He was stationed at Mount Charleston, Nevada, battling the two big blazes that touched the area. On his way to work one day, he decided to give Mike a call. He was missing hockey, the game that had defined who he was for the past 20 years and he had an idea that he wanted to run by his friend. He had figured out a way to still be in the game that he loved.
“I said to him ‘if you’re going to have an assistant coaching position open, I want to hand my resume in’ and he was like ‘yeah if you want to’. He knows me, knows me as a person, he knows my family he knows what I’m all about. It seemed like a good fit… That’s where we are today.”
Aaron wants to be a player’s coach. He understands their mindset, having just stepped off the ice himself and he wants to support them as a mentor and look out for them. He knows that playing is a grind, battling through injuries, but that it is a part of being a professional athlete and that it requires a certain amount of mental strength to push through every game and perform.
“I just finished playing so I know what it’s like to play, what it’s like to be tired. I know how everything works. I’ll do my best to help the guys out and point out things I think I know they can do better, motivate them, hold them accountable…I know they are not going to be perfect every game, I had bad games, that’s life nobody’s perfect. We are going to make mistakes but I think we can live with that.”
For Aaron and Mike, both new to the bench, there will be a learning curve and this same philosophy that Aaron holds the players to applies to him as well. It will take time to adjust and make the transition from player to coach. There will be good games and there will be days when mistakes are made that you learn from. He has spent the summer going over drills in his head that he’s picked up from other coaches during his playing career. He has also stayed in contact with former Wranglers Coach and now Assistant Coach of the Vancouver Canucks Glen Gulutzan, a man who made a significant impact on Power. The two have talked a few times and Glen has graciously offered to help.
“He’s said if you run into any issues or have any problems to call him and run things by him. He’s been very successful and he’s coaching in the best league in the world now. I’m sure at some point I’ll bounce an idea off him, we’ll (Mike and I) come across a situation where, it’s something new to us, to have him there, to offer his assistance is really, you know what I mean.”
It is clear that the gesture means a great deal to Aaron and that he holds Gulutzan’s thoughts and opinions in high regard. It is no surprise given that under Gulutzan’s direction the Wranglers won two division championships, a Brabham Cup and an appearance in the Kelly Cup Finals. He was awarded the John Brophy Trophy for the ECHL’s best coach in the 2005-06 season and his team became the first in the league’s history to have three-consecutive 100 point seasons. He also was named head coach to the All-Star team for three straight years, from 2006-08. Glen is the right coach to look to for the young bench boss. Aaron also has his own experience to draw from, especially for special teams like the power play. It is one of the many reasons Mike Madill named him assistant coach. In a press release at the end of the summer Mike described Aaron as “always a power play specialist, and those skills can be passed on to our players and will be something our team will benefit from.”
He is a big believer in getting the puck to the net, just shooting the puck and Power is ready to give the players his insights and share what made him successful out on the ice. He can offer his guidance and help them out but ultimately they will be the ones out there so he is open to their input as well.
“We have some pretty good D coming in so… you know their resumes speak for themselves. They’ve played in some pretty good leagues and obviously they are here for a reason and they’re good at what they do… they are the ones that have to perform and get it done. I want to take some of their input too, they are good players and they’ve played in good leagues and maybe they can teach me a couple things too.”
Aaron is excited for the season and to again be a part of the Wranglers Organization. When he first contemplated playing in Las Vegas back in 2006, he nearly passed to play in Europe, but for him it was the best decision he’s made. He met his wife and the first two years he played on a tight knit team that made it to the Kelly Cup Finals, and formed a lasting friendship with Mike Madill. Right now it’s paying off in spades.
The Las Vegas Wranglers begin their season on October 19th when they meet the Utah Grizzlies at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. For more information on tickets and schedule visit the Wranglers website