Swan becomes a Hawk

Graeme Swan proudly wore the emblazoned black and yellow spartan crest on his jacket for six years.

During his stay at the University of Waterloo, the men’s hockey assistant coach could be found fine-tuning the Warriors’ defensive game and serving as a communication buffer between staff and player.

Now, he’ll do the same with one of the Warriors’ chief opponents – the Wilfrid Laurier Golden Hawks.

So what made the Centennial Senior Public School teacher defect?

“It was all about opportunity, really,” said Swan.

I had spoken with [former Hawks assistant coach] Curtis Darling… He was leaving to become established in his full time career elsewhere, so he knew there were opportunities.”

Swan investigated the situation and found himself face to face with another one of Laurier’s new coaching experts, head boss Greg Puhalski.

Having just one season under his belt, Puhalski had been out of the university game for too long. Serving as the head coach in the East Coast Hockey League and the United Hockey League, he needed an experienced hand in the Ontario University Athletics (OUA) circuit.

So like his Grade 8 pupils at Centennial, Swan raised his own hand, and the job hunt was over.

“[Darling] connected me with Greg and we hit it off. At that point I just had to weigh whether I wanted to go back to Waterloo or come to Laurier… so here I am,” said Swan.

“I think I see myself as a people person and a good communicator. We also had some good success with [the Warriors’] defence last year so I think that was an appeal [for Puhalski],” said the team’s newest sheriff.

Maybe the Hawks can pick up a few nuggets of intel about the Warriors from their new bench boss.

“Well I certainly know Waterloo and their tendencies well,” chuckled Swan. “I’ve got a lot of respect for [Waterloo head coach] Brian Bourque, but I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t looking forward to the first meeting against Waterloo. It’ll be exciting coaching against them.”

Swan can circle Oct. 30, or Devil’s Night on his calendar to test his trickery against his former mates – he’ll be taking up residence in Columbia Ice Fields behind the visitors’ bench.

“It’ll be completely weird, but I feel like I made some connections at Waterloo that will last beyond hockey and I’ll continue to be friends with Brian [Bourque] outside of the game,” said Swan.

The Waterloo teacher grew up in Owen Sound, then moved to St. Catharines and played and coached for Brock University in the 1980s,

“The students I teach [at Centennial] are a little bit younger so it’s a nice mix to [deal with] young men who are really focused and driven in terms of having a passion in not just athletics but academics as well.”

Last year’s edition of the Hawks over-achieved for such a young squad. Swan will lend a helping hand in developing that group into a powerhouse.

“You really want to try and foster an environment where the players believe in their own ability to be great individually and then you challenge them collectively to be better as a team. I think high expectations contributes to that,” said the new staff member.

“I saw Laurier probably three or four times last year and I was thoroughly impressed…It’s a good opportunity for me to grow and develop as a coach alongside somebody [with both pro and university experience] such as Greg.”