With the World Cup of Hockey showdown between Team USA and Canada playing on a television inside the Bay Center, new Pensacola Ice Flyers head coach Kevin Hasselberg spent a little time chatting with fans at a reception Tuesday night.
He flashed a thumbs-up after Canada scored its first goal, although he joked prior to the game that he had to be careful about how loud he cheered for his native country’s team since he was in the minority in this moment.
But then the fourth coach in the franchise history of the Ice Flyers got down to talking about something everyone was on the same page with – the upcoming Southern Professional Hockey League season.
“It’s a true honor to be selected as the next head coach of the Pensacola Ice Flyers,” Hasselberg said. “It was an overwhelming process and the decision didn’t come without a lot of thought. I am grateful for the opportunity.”
Hasselberg is a native of Brooks, Alberta, and spent the last five seasons as the head coach and general manager of the Battlefords North Stars in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League. He won 174 games and guided the team to a pair of division titles in that time, earning league coach of the year honors this past season.
He has big shoes to fill in Pensacola, which has won three of the last four SPHL titles and will enter the season as the reigning President’s Cup champions.
“A high standard has been achieved here. I have big boots to fill,” Hasselberg said. “The bar has been raised and it’s at a height that will be very difficult to reach. The only choice is to raise it higher and that’s a challenge. Our team wants to meet the challenge head on. It’s exciting.”
The challenge starts with adjusting to the jump from junior to pro hockey. But Hasselberg has a strong work ethic, one he inherited from his parents, who made a living as ranchers, and he plans to put forth the effort necessary to be ready to lead the Ice Flyers into action this season.
“It’s about getting prepared, crossing your t’s and dotting your i’s,” Hasselberg said. “I don’t want to leave anything unturned. The goal is to establish a game plan and get a system and structure in place, so that when the players get here, they can tie up their skates and go to work.”
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