Sylvan Lake’s hockey community is mourning the death of a prolific coach, who vaulted the town to its status as a hockey town.
Brian Dalshaug had a powerful impact on many in the community and the kids he coached on his hockey teams.
Dalshaug coached in Sylvan Lake and in Red Deer during the ‘80s and early ‘90s, and many of those he coached had successful hockey careers and became community leaders in Sylvan Lake and across North America.
Dalshaug died suddenly on Jan. 5 in his home in Kaslo, B.C. at the age of 72.
Sylvan Lake Hockey Camp founder and president Graham Parsons calls him the “father of competitive hockey in Sylvan Lake.”
“He put us on the map provincially,” Parsons said. “Before he came we were playing teams like Eckville, Bentley and Spruceview. With him we started playing teams like Camrose and Innisfail.”
At the time Sylvan Lake was a small community with less than 5,000 people. Under the coaching of Dalshaug, known as Coach D to many, Sylvan Lake Minor Hockey went on to play in major tournaments and even win provincial titles.
Pat Garritty was one of the many kids he taught during his tenure in Sylvan Lake. He says he remembers being the underdog in many situations, and came out on top.
In the early ‘80s, Coach D took his team to a tournament in Penticton, B.C. where the team was a “fish out of water.” Dalshaug and the Lakers went on to make a splash and won the tournament.
“We would go to these games and tournaments with 12 to 14 kids and we would win it,” remembers Garritty.
It was just that he coached, it was how he coached and the lessons he taught his players.
Garritty says he and the other players on his team learned accountability, team work, leadership and discipline under Coach D’s watch.
“There are things I do today that I do because of him and what I learned and watched him do,” said Garritty.
Parsons says Coach D’s teachings were ahead of his time.
“You run into someone who is truly special, a real one-in-a-lifetime kind of person, so rarely, but he was really one of those guys,” said Parsons.
Parsons continued, remembering Coach D was a health inspector with no kids of his own, he just loved the game of hockey.
Some of his players have gone on to play professionally, and coach across North America, and each has made huge impacts on their communities.
“There is this spiderweb of influence that all starts with this guy,” said Parsons.
Garritty and Parsons said they kept in contact with Coach D even after he moved from the area to Lethbridge and then to Kaslo.
Most recently they had spoken with him during the World Junior’s tournament, which Canada lost the gold medal.
“His death was so unexpected… I am really going to miss him,” said Garritty.
The local hockey community is planning to honour the memory of the ‘father of competitive hockey’ with a memorial game later this summer.