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Rangers hire new coaching staff


When the Parkland Rangers’ Manitoba U18 AAA Hockey League season ended in February, interim head coach Tyler Carefoot expressed an interest in returning next season.
On Saturday, the Rangers announced they had granted Carefoot his wish, naming him and Rick Freese as the team’s co-coaches for the 2020-21 season. Carefoot will also serve as director of hockey operations.
Carefoot played two seasons with the Rangers in the 1990s and played three seasons with the Manitoba Junior Hockey League’s Portage Terriers.
Carefoot took over from Arnie Caplan late last season and expressed an interest in returning at season’s end. With the support of his family, Carefoot applied for the position, respecting the application process as he had promised.
“This is just the next step for my coaching path. It’s something that I’ve been wanting to do for a long time,” he said, adding he served as an assistant coach for two years under Mike Pernarowski.
Upon taking over as interim coach, Freese was one of the first phone calls Carefoot made.
“Because I had heard that he was interested in the program, as well. So I thought what better way to start laying the foundation for next season. And from that moment, we kept in constant communication,” Carefoot explained.
The hiring process took a long time, Carefoot said, requiring a lot of meetings and phone calls.
“The more we chatted, the more we realized that we had some common ground. The more we realized that we had a lot of the same philosophies and it was evident that we had a passion. And it was something that we wanted to do together,” he said.
“I think it’s just tremendous that we’ve got two guys with all kinds of experience that want to help rebuild this program.”
Freese joins the Rangers from the Dauphin Clippers high school program, where he led the Clippers to the Westman High School Hockey League final this past season. The final was, of course, cancelled due to the current pandemic.
Freese played in the AAA league with the Norman North Stars, before taking his talents to the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League, where he played in two RBC Cup national championships. He was with the Flin Flon Bombers when they hosted the event in 2001, losing in the final. He won the national title with the Humboldt Broncos two years later.
Having spent seven seasons with the high school program, Freese said it was tough to leave that program.
“They were a great staff. They did their job and I’ll miss them, for sure,” he said.
Freese wanted to help build a winning culture with the Rangers program and make sure that it flourishes within the region.
“And we really want to do a good job there and make sure we’re doing things the right way. There’s no sense trying to be cliché about it. We’re just going to go in there and work hard and try and do our job,” he said.
Freese has tried to pass his RBC Cup experience onto his players in the past and he plans to continue to do that with the Rangers.
“When you’ve played at different levels of the game, you have stories to tell. And that’s the kind of stuff the players want to hear. They want to be developed and they want to get to the next level. And that’s what we’re here to do,” he said.
Freese is looking forward to working with Carefoot.
“We’re going to do it together this year. We’re going to work hard. I always said, if we do our job and the players do their job, we’ll get along just fine. We have some of the same ideas. It will be a learning curve, for sure, but I think once things get rolling, it will just all fall into place,” he said.
Now begins the recruiting process.
After putting together a presentation for prospective recruits, Carefoot and Freese will hit the road to talk to players.
“One thing that Rick and I will be able to offer is accountability. It’s all about the team. There’s no player bigger than the team and that’s the culture we want, is it’s just a team-first mentality. And if the players are going to buy into it, then I think, overall, we’re going to have more success than ever,” Carefoot said, adding they hope to have 35 to 45 players in camp in the fall.
Carefoot feels any player with aspirations of playing junior should go through the AAA route, noting the vast majority of players in major junior or junior A came through the AAA ranks.
“It’s fair to say that 99.5 per cent of the players on a junior hockey club come from some form of U18 AAA hockey. So those are the kids that we want. We want kids that are interested in furthering and developing their hockey set. If this is of interest to them, then we’ve got the place that can help develop you and mould you into a player that, hopefully, has the skills to play at the next level,” he said.
Carefoot feels he and Freese will work well together.
“I think Rick and I are going to compliment each other really well. Our goal is to help rebuild the program by recruiting players that want to get better and aspire to play higher levels of hockey,” he said.

Doug Zywina