The Antigonish Farmers’ Mutual Junior Bulldogs are back on the market for a head coach after it was announced, March 27, Dave Synishin was stepping down after two years at the helm.
Synishin joined the Bulldogs after a number of years guiding the St. F.X. X-Women hockey program and led the team to a third place Sid Rowe Division finish in 2017-18 regular season play, and fourth place this past season; ironically, with very similar records (17-15-2 overtime losses in 2017-18, 17-15 this past year after the league reduced games from 34 to 32).
Synishin’s Bulldogs defeated the Pictou County Scotians in the first round of the Nova Scotia Junior Hockey League playoffs last season, four games to two, before falling to the eventual league/provincial and Atlantic champion Kameron Junior Miners in five games.
In this year’s playoffs, the Bulldogs extended the first-place Strait Pirates to seven games in round one before bowing out. The Pirates are currently awaiting the winner of the Fred Fox series final, between the Sackville Blazers and East Hants Penguins, after sweeping the Miners in round two.
“It’s all work related; it has become physically impossible to do both,” Synishin said of his reason for stepping away. “I missed a ton of practices this year. I don’t work regular hours; sometimes I work until 10 or 11 p.m. at night … a lot of nights. It compromises coaching, it affects the players and development, in every way, so it’s, basically, impossible. I would love to keep doing it, but both just can’t be done right now.”
Synishin said he broke the news to the players during a Sunday (March 24) team meeting.
“I loved it actually,” he said of his two years behind the bench with the junior Bulldogs.
“I was saying to the guys; over the two years, we didn’t have one bad apple … it doesn’t always work that way. We had an incredible group, both years, who wanted to learn and succeed and, at the end of the day, were just great people. First and foremost, great individuals and that allowed us to have some success.”
That team-first attitude almost led to what would have been a major upset based on regular season performance, as the first-place Pirates only lost three games – one in overtime – during the regular season, and finished 25 points in front of Antigonish.
“It was a lot of fun to be part of … it’s why you play the game,” he said.
“Regular season to me is, as you learn over time, a dress rehearsal for the real season. The credit goes to the players; we had a conversation before the first period of the first game in Port Hawkesbury about how we had to play and they bought in. They just decided they wanted to play a physical and high tempo game; they did that. The coach can ask but it’s really up to the individual to get the job done.”
As for staying involved in the sport in some capacity, Synishin said “not right now.”
“It has been more than 20 years of doing it and one thing people might not know, we [wife Suzi] have three kids and not one of them have been involved in the sport; so it has been about me for 20 years or more. Our oldest guy is going to be 17 in the fall; they tried it but none of them, at any point, have been involved in hockey and that is perfectly fine. They got involved in other things, so it has been a one person show, unfortunately.
“At the end of the day it’s a selfish job, in a way, just because, even when you’re not there, you’re thinking about it mentally, and it affects a lot of people. But, obviously, I’ve had a ton of support from them over the years.”
Bulldogs’ general manager Gerry Marangoni said the search for Synishin’s replacement began the minute after he received the news and interested persons can contact the Bulldogs through their website (jrbbulldogs.goaline.ca). He noted a more formal call-out for applications will come in the following days.