Coaches ink extensions at WLU
On Jan. 20, Peter Baxter, Wilfrid Laurier University’s director of athletics and recreation, signed two influential bench bosses at this university to five- year contract extensions. Greg Puhalski and Peter Campbell, the respective head coaches of the Laurier men’s hockey and basketball teams, were inked in for another half a decade in the purple and gold.
Puhalski is in his fourth year behind the bench at Laurier, while Campbell is in his 14th. Puhalski has led his teams to the playoffs every year he’s been here while Campbell is currently on a 12-year playoff streak, only missing them once in his first season at Laurier in 2000-01.
“Well, first and foremost I want to thank Peter and the athletic department for having a similar belief and a common philosophy as far as what direction we want to go,” said Puhalski.
“It means that your boss believes in what you’re trying to do, so that is always a positive thing in our situation,” remarked Campbell.
The biggest plus of getting the contract extension is the knowledge that they now had a weight lifted off their shoulders in terms of recruiting — a big part of the college level.
“It allows us to continue recruiting the kind of kids we have been recruiting, which is really important to me and guarantees that we can continue to try to be successful,” said Campbell.
Getting the right kind of students on the team that fit the team philosophy is essential for success. Puhalski stressed the importance of getting “character” guys that will stick with the team for years to come.
Puhalski and Campbell believe coaching at Laurier is different than where they spent the earlier parts of their coaching careers.
Campbell coached for 15 seasons at Laurentian University while Puhalski spent 17 seasons as a coach split between pro hockey clubs like the Wheeling Nailers and the Chicago Hounds.
“You’ve got some more room for growth in your players here, with the knowledge that they’ll be with your team for three or four years whereas in pro hockey you’re really living on a day to day basis,” said Puhalski.
“For me I think what makes Laurier spectacular is the kids … the students at Laurier are just spectacular, they have a great time, it’s a great atmosphere on campus and I really like that,” he said.
Full of memories, both coaches are able to pinpoint a single game.
“My first year here, in the first round of playoffs, we won in overtime against UOIT [Ridgebacks] when we were down one game to nothing in the first round. That was obviously a great highlight,” said Puhalski.
Campbell recalled a game in 2006 when the Hawks knocked off the Brock Badgers, who were the heavy favourites, to head to the national championship. When the Hawks headed over to Brock for a game this season, Campbell said the long-time trainer of the Badgers still remembered that game.
“That one doesn’t leave you for a while … It stays with other people even, because now there’s a guy at Brock who remembers it distinctly because they were sure they were going to the nationals,” he said.
But above those moments, both established that their real highlights lay not within games, but people.
“They would all revolve around guys I’ve had the opportunity to coach for sure. The highlights I’ve had at Laurier are all around the people I’ve dealt with at Laurier,” Campbell said.
“I guess my highlight is the feeling of when your team plays together, bonds together and plays for each other and that’s always a good feeling to have,” Puhalski said.
While coaching different sports, collectively they each have one common goal for the next five years.
“Well, we want to win the [Canadian Interuniversity Sport] CIS championship, that’s our ultimate goal and that’s why we lace ‘em up and put ‘em on,” said Puhalski.
Campbell agreed. “The whole goal, in everything we do is to bring quality kids in here, graduate them and try to win an [Ontario University Athletics] OUA championship and then the national championship if that presents itself. That’s the goal.”