It took awhile but the Grand Forks Border Bruins have found their man.
Emery Olauson has been hired as the Bruins head coach and general manager. The 34-year-old coached the Fayetteville FireAntz of the Southern Professional Hockey League (SPHL) last year and was living in the North Carolina city with his wife Lauren when he took the job in Grand Forks.
The two are excited to be able to raise their newborn baby in the Boundary.
Olauson started his coaching career in Flin Flon in 2013-14 as an assistant with the Bombers of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League. Before becoming a coach, he had played 10 years of professional hockey most recently with the Knoxville Ice Bears of the SPHL. He grew up in Alberta and played his junior hockey in Saskatchewan with the Weyburn RedWings and the Estevan Bruins.
Olauson is excited to head back north to take over the reigns of the Border Bruins. He feels the squad has plenty of good talent returning and he expects to add several pieces over the next few months.
“We’re having a baby boy here this summer and I was looking out west—I’m from Canmore, Alberta—for coaching jobs,” he said. “I knew about the KIJHL having played junior with some guys who came through there and having coached players who had played there. I was somewhat familiar with the area and I knew how beautiful it was. We were really hoping to come to a small town in Western Canada.”
Olauson was thrilled when he found out he got the job, although he acknowledges that there will be challenges.
“I know they’ve had some struggles on the ice and things like that,” he said. “But I think it was a really good fit with what they need in the immediate future to make the turnaround. I think what I have to offer will fill in some gaps for them. I’m relatively young for a coach and I have lots of energy and lots of ideas. We’re looking forward to seeing that energy and those ideas help turn the Border Bruins into a success.”
Olauson doesn’t think his young age will be a hindrance. He has had three years of coaching experience and played hockey for 14 years at the junior, university and professional levels.
“I consider myself a late bloomer as most junior B players would be,” he said. “I kept driving forward and motivate as best as I can. I think I can relate pretty well to the players. I think I know the game pretty well. I do have the energy and passion to be at work every day and keep studying the game.”
Olauson, who was hired in May, has already been recruiting and is excited with some of the talent he has coming in as well as the players expected to return.
“I expect us be faster and probably a little tougher,” he said. “I think we’ll be better on special teams as well as strong in goaltending. I expect a large recruiting class. Again, I’m excited about the players coming in and those who are returning. I’ve definitely burned up some cell phone minutes this summer but that’s part of the job. Recruiting is more important then ever especially with a young team like us that is going to go through some changes.”
The Bruins head to training camp from Aug.28-30 at Jack Goddard Memorial Arena. Olauson expects to see some strong competition for all the roster spots.
“I know the cut-down has to happen quickly with a camp as short as ours,” he said. “We are getting right into the swing of things quickly. We’re working hard on establishing depth with our young players. I think we have a great opportunity for 18-year-olds to come into Grand Forks to play.”
Olauson said the KIJHL is a great league for players to use as a stepping stone to junior A or even major junior. He expects to have a competitive, well-balanced squad this season.
Bruins club president Martin Vanlerberg said the club is fortunate to have found a quality hire at such a late date.
“We’re really excited to have Emery and his family come to the great town of Grand Forks,” said Vanlerberg. “He’s looking forward to being a part of the community and seeing these kids in Grand Forks develop as hockey players and as strong citizens.”
Vanlerberg said he and the board of directors are already impressed with how motivated and driven Olauson is.
“You can see a difference already through the recruiting,” he said. “He’s not too far away from where these players are. He’ll maybe have a different identity to what we’ve seen in the past. He’ll definitely be able to relate to the players with the background he has.”
Vanlerberg is also pleased with the level of communication between Olauson and the board. He adds that there are several very good players already looking at joining the Bruins.
“It’s looks quite promising—the level of players he’s in communication with and they will be coming to the main camp,” said Vanlerberg. “We have players coming in that are really excited about being here and being part of the rebuild.”
The Border Bruins are hosting their annual golf tournament fundraiser on Sept. 19 at the Christina Lake Golf Club. Everyone is welcome. For more information or to register contact Martin Vanlerberg at 250-443-3218.