The new head coach and general manager of the Estevan Bruins brings a strong track record of success to the club as it gets ready to host the Centennial Cup national junior A championship in 2022.
The Bruins announced on May 6 that they had hired Jason Tatarnic for the role.
As a head coach and general manager, Tatarnic has compiled a 470-172-14-16 record primarily with the Woodstock Slammers of the Maritime Hockey League and the Chilliwack Chiefs of the B.C. Hockey League. With Tatarnic serving as the head coach, the Slammers reached the 2012 national final, back when it was known as the RBC Cup, when the tournament was held in Humboldt.
They won league titles in 2006, 2008, 2010 and 2012.
Tatarnic was the head coach and general manager of that Chiefs from 2014-15 to 2017-18. They reached the B.C. Hockey League’s final in 2016 and 2017, and won the RBC Cup as the host team in 2018. But he was dismissed by the club shortly before the national tournament began.
Since leaving the Chiefs, he has been operating Hockey Pathways, a player advisory service.
He wanted to ensure he was going to the right situation with the right people for his next hockey job, and he believes the Bruins are the right opportunity.
“I’ve been very selective with the places that I’ve looked at and places that would interest me,” he told the Mercury.
The Bruin job appealed to him, in part, because he played in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League with the Notre Dame Hounds in 1993-94. He was also an assistant coach with the Humboldt Broncos in the 2004-05 season. That Humboldt team was swept by the Bruins in the league’s quarter-final round.
After the 2004-05 season, Tatarnic took the job with the Slammers.
“I think it’s a good league. I think the fans are passionate. I think it’s a great place for players to play, and when you look at Estevan’s facility, it’s not a bad place to work and not a bad place to coach hockey games.”
The chance to lead a Centennial Cup host team was likely a lure for a lot of applicants, but Tatarnic found that once he started going through the application process and had a sense of who he would be working for, he found that Estevan was a place he wanted to be. He looks forward to working with the executive.
Last season he saw the Bruins play on multiple occasions and saw some of the Bruins talent at SJHL-MJHL Showcase in Regina.
“I think they’re in a good spot right now. I think the people that are still currently involved with the team did a great job, and I think Chris (former head coach and GM Chris Lewgood) did a fantastic job of his list and developing those younger players.”
Tatarnic inherits a team that has 19 of 23 players eligible to return, including starting goaltender Keenan Rancier and six of their seven defencemen.
“You always like to start from the backend on out, and that’s already in place,” he said.
New team president George Sereggela said Tatarnic checked all the boxes for the executive, thanks in part to his record in junior A hockey.
“From contacting his references and other sources, the feedback that we were getting is that he has an unmatched recruiting network across Canada and into the United States,” said Sereggela.
One coach the executive spoke with said that if there’s a competition for a player, Tatarnic will get him.
Player advancement was another factor, as the Bruins noted Tatarnic has sent 170 players to post-secondary and professional hockey leagues in his career.
Also an asset is Tatarnic’s experience in building a team that is hosting a national junior A tournament, and his ability to budget.
There was a lot to like about many of the candidates, Sereggela said. Roughly 50 people applied for the job. Sereggela admits there were concerns about how Tatarnic’s tenure in Chilliwack ended, but they spoke to several individuals connected with the Chiefs who felt that it was still Tatarnic’s team.
“One, he built the team, two, he installed the systems, and three, he had the players focused on winning that tournament,” said Sereggela.
Tatarnic said he enjoys the process associated with winning and player development. It’s important to develop good skills and good people.
“You’re pretty much a teacher. You’re no different than a teacher in the school system. And I really enjoy that. To develop those players into who they are, and develop them so they can advance to the next level, there’s no greater satisfaction than seeing that player move on to the next level and do well.”
Tatarnic said he will be winding down his involvement with Hockey Pathways, and his focus will be on the Bruins. He looks forward to coming to Estevan, and his wife and three children will be joining him.
Terms of the contract were not disclosed, but Sereggela said the term extends beyond the 2022 Centennial Cup.