An Antigonish native is the new head coach of the Strait Pirates.
The Nova Scotia Junior Hockey League organization announced the signing of a three-year deal with Taylor Lambke in a June 30 press release.
“I think, for me, it is probably the next step in my coaching career,” the 27-year-old, who coached the Dr. John Hugh Gillis Regional Royals for the past two seasons, said in an interview.
“I wanted to make the jump to the junior level and the Pirates, I think, are a great opportunity.
“I think the organization is heading in the right direction and I am really excited to be part of it,” he added.
Before going behind the bench, the Antigonish Minor Hockey Association (AMHA) product skated with the former Antigonish Junior ‘A’ Bulldogs, as a 16-year-old, before being drafted by the Acadie-Bathurst Titan of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL).
After three seasons with the Titan, Lambke played his overage season with the Rouyn-Nouranda Huskies, where he served as an alternate captain, before finishing his junior career with the Miramichi Timberwolves of the Maritime Junior ‘A’ Hockey League.
While attending university in Montreal, where he studied business, Lambke played with the Concordia Stingers.
“We were looking for someone with experience, energy and, ideally, youth – we found all three in Taylor,” Tim MacMillan, Pirate general manager, said in the organization’s announcement.
“He’s a dynamic guy. He will be a great recruiter and a natural motivator – the guys will love playing for him.”
MacMillan told the Casket Lambke “has many of the attributes that we were looking for.”
“Being young is going to be a real factor on the recruitment side; being in Antigonish; having a lot of connections and he has some coaching experience, too.
“Maybe not in our league, but that will come,” he added.
MacMillan was asked about the importance of drawing players to the Pirates, who study at St. F.X., and if that was a factor in selecting Lambke to take the helm.
“Let’s face it – you have a local player pool, which sometimes can be big or sometimes can be miniscule; especially for us – we have a smaller population now than we have ever had,” MacMillan said.
“You need to supplement your roster with players from St. F.X.
“It’s a key thing, but not a pre-requisite, not a must,” he added of the requirements for a new Pirate head coach.
MacMillan noted most head coaches with the organization have come from the Strait Richmond or Cape Breton West regions.
“We needed to broaden our search and that brought us to Taylor,” he said.
MacMillan said “we are just excited to get started.”
“We still have a lot of work to do and I know Taylor’s got plenty of energy and he is going to be a big help this summer,” he added.
Lambke said “the organization has been great.”
“We are going to sit down, probably in the next couple weeks, and go through the players that are there now,” he added.
“They have given me, basically, full reign to build the team and their goal is to build a championship program and bring a championship to Port Hawkesbury in the near future.”
Lambke talked about his familiarity with the Pirate players from last season.
“I know some of the players who are currently there – I would have seen a lot of them play, actually against my brother [Garrett] when he played midget hockey,” he said.
“So, I know a lot of the players there now, a lot of the players that are coming through the minor league system I would have seen through the high school league, coaching that the last couple years.
“I think I have a good handle on what’s coming and what we have now,” Lambke added.
As for the move to junior hockey, he was asked if that would require changes to his coaching style.
“No, I don’t think so,” Lambke said, “I think a lot of the systems and stuff – I mean the game is so fast and skilled, nowadays, it is a pretty simple system and it is just a matter of executing day-in and day-out.
“There will be little things, with the maturity of the players – size and strength – which will make it a little bit different, but – other than that – it is a pretty simple game; you just have to execute each time you play,” he added.
At the time of the conversation with Lambke, no decisions had been made regarding the rest of his coaching staff.
“We have a couple people in mind. We will go through a little process and find the right fit,” he said.
“I am looking for someone with a strong passion for the game, someone willing to commit and help bring our program to an elite level.
“Experience isn’t overly important, as long as the fit is right,” Lambke added.
He said he is “just really excited for the opportunity.
“Hopefully, we can build the program up. It has got a lot of history and, I think, it is time that they get back on the winning track,” Lambke said.