For just the third time in the history of the Saskatoon Minor Hockey Association, the annual Coach of the Year award had co-winners, Garth Kuemper and Corey Young.
Kuemper has been coaching in the SMHA for over 25 years, and been part of over 30 teams since he was 20 years old.
“I just wanted to give back to the game that I love,” Kuemper said. “So, I always thought that it would be a good way to just get out on the ice with the kids.”
Corey Young is also a long-tenured coach, having run a bench for 21 years, while also coaching over 30 teams.
“People often ask, what’s the best part of coaching? And, really it’s just watching the kids,” Young said. “Meeting different people, meeting different kids, and watching them develop as players and people.”
Young had won the Comets zone coach of the year multiple times before sharing the leagues’ top award with Kuemper this season.
However, this win is doubly special for Kuemper who is the only two-time recipient of the award.
“I didn’t think they’d actually give it to somebody twice,” Kuemper chuckled. “There’s so many good coaches out there and just to be nominated in the same group as some of them is just phenomenal.”
Although the two share many similarities in both tenure and coaching philosophies, they took different paths on their long coaching journeys.
Young began as a coach with his oldest daughter Ashly, eventually coaching both his younger daughters McKenna, and Taylin as well.
“I was lucky enough that my kids’ age groups were far enough apart that I was actually able to spend considerable time with each of them,” he said.
For Kuemper, things were a bit different.
He started as a non-parent coach in the now defunct Barons zone in the 1990s. Now, however, he faces a tougher task coaching both of his boys, Easton and Rhett, in separate divisions.
No matter the difference in age or skill level of his teams, Kuemper’s mantra has always remained the same.
“My goal for kids in hockey is to keep them in hockey,” Kuemper said. “I’ve always said that they’re all going to end up playing beer league hockey somewhere, it doesn’t matter if they play in the NHL or not.”
With such lengthy careers at the helm of a team, both have been able to pass much of their knowledge onto the next generation of coaches, an evolution that they’ve both enjoyed.
“I’ve coached this particular child and now he’s moved up and he’s coaching his child,” Kuemper grinned. “Actually, it’s pretty awesome if you think about it.”