Bobcats hire trio of new head coaches ahead of ’17-18 season
With a growing program and increasingly high expectations, the Arizona Bobcats know they must employ the best coaches they can find to help their players develop.
Hockey director Ron Filion knows just how important coaching is, and believes he has found three excellent leaders in the trio of head coaches he has selected to add to the Bobcats’ roster for the 2017-18 season.
Jeff Alexander will coach the program’s Squirt AAA team, Dillon Shaffer will coach the Pee Wee AAA team, (a 2005/2006 birth year combo) and Kirk Bolduc will coach the Bantam AAA squad alongside Filion.
“Our program has always focused on giving our young hockey players the best development possible and to achieve this goal, we need qualified coaches,” Filion said. “With the program growing so much over the past two years, we needed to find local coaches with coaching and playing experience who could relate a clear message and guide our teams to a higher level. We have found three people that we are proud to welcome to our program as head coaches.”
Alexander grew up in Chandler and moved on to play junior hockey in the Eastern Junior Hockey League and Division III college hockey at Castleton State University in Vermont from 2006-09. He returned to the Valley and coached with Mission AZ, Arizona Hockey Union (AHU) and CAHA in Chandler – working with players from Mites to the 18U level along the way.
“I was an assistant coach with the Bobcats 2003 team last year, and I was looking for kids who want to compete every single day and who are looking to take the next step to play in college and juniors,” Alexander said. “The Bobcats’ program is really focused on developing players and their skills. That’s the culture here, and that’s my preference.
“I learned a lot of lessons after I was done playing, as far as what I could have done to make myself better. I wish I had known growing up what I know now, and I think I can use that knowledge to help these kids get where they want to go.”
Shaffer played mostly at Oceanside with the Firebirds growing up and was a center at Northern Arizona University from 2006-11. During his last season with the Lumberjacks, he started coaching with AHU in Gilbert. He worked three years with the Union, a season with Mission AZ and two more with CAHA, coaching alongside Alexander – who he had grown up playing with and against – with many of his teams.
“To me, the Bobcats are what a youth hockey program should look like,” Shaffer said. “You walk into the rink and there’s almost a tangible aura in the air. It just feels right. Jeff and I and a few other guys in the program are from Arizona, so there’s a unique sense of pride involved. We’ve had that ‘hockey in the desert, us against the world’ mentality for a long time, and we know how good the hockey is and can be here.
“We met with Ron, and I think that discussion clicked fairly quickly. I like the lack of fluff and the focus on hockey. For me, it was a pretty easy decision. It was a very comfortable fit right away.”
Bolduc (pictured) played with Alexander at Castleton from 2006-10, then played for a year with the Rome Frenzy of the Federal Hockey League. A native of Lewiston, Maine, he moved to Arizona after his playing career wrapped up and has been coaching ever since. Mostly, he has worked at the AA level, from Squirts up to Midgets at CAHA, Mission and AHU.
“At the Bantam level, especially with first-year Bantams, it’s an impressionable year because it’s the first year they can hit,” Bolduc said. “The opportunity for me to coach at the AAA level was really attractive.”
— Greg Ball