YORKTON - The Yorkton Junior Terriers are celebrating 50 years in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League this season.
To mark the milestone Yorkton This Week is digging into its archives and pulling out a random Terrier-related article from the past five decades of reporting on the team, and will be running one each week, just as it originally appeared.
This feature will appear weekly over the entire season in the pages of The Marketplace.
Week #6 comes from Feb. 4, 1987.
The winner of the Yorkton Terriers coaching derby is Dennis Polonich.
The former Detroit Red Wings player signed on as coach and general manager of the local junior hockey team Monday. The contract’s life is for the remaining 13 games of the Saskatchewan Amateur Junior Hockey League schedule, plus an additional two years.
At a media conference Monday, Polonich says he pushed for an extra two-year contract, because “I was not comfortable with two months. This would create undue pressure and strain. It’s tough when you have to reassess the position after only two months.”
Also, ‘it wasn’t worth moving my family” from Muskegon, Michigan for what could conceivably only work out to be a two-month job.
Terriers’ president Gene Krepakevich says the executive had only intended to hire a coach for the remainder of the season, “but after assessing the situation, we realized the need for stability.”
After receiving 17 applications by letter and 10 queries by phone, the Terriers’ executive decided to shortlist the candidates down to four names. One of the four didn’t show up for personal reasons, so only three people were interviewed for the job, which became open when interim coach Barry Marianchuk announced he would be stepping down from his position.
Marianchuk, who took over from the fired Norm Johnston in January, will stay on as director of player personnel and will help Polonich get familiar with the team.
Polonich arrived in Yorkton Thursday to prepare a presentation and had an interview with the executive Saturday.
“I was sitting on pins and needles” until asked if he wanted the job.
Polonich, originally from Foam Lake, was available for the job because he finished off his 14-year professional hockey career with the Muskegon Lumberjacks in December and wanted to get into coaching.
“My kids will get shoes now,” jokes Polonich.
But taking over the Terriers is no joking matter. Polonich watched the team practice Monday afternoon and figured out the line combinations and defence pairings.
“I can’t wait to start,” he says. “There’s a lot of ground to cover.”
Items high on the agenda include assessing the players and team as a whole. Other things include “getting to know the players one-on-one” and preparing the team to get ready to “peak for the playoffs.”
On a more long-term basis, Polonich wants to learn about the administrative end of the organization, along with establishing a good rapport with “everyone,” including people in the community, the AAA Mallers hockey team, minor sports and hockey teams in the surrounding area.
Over the last few years, there has been “a lot of turmoil” in the Terriers’ organization and the team has developed the nickname of “dial-a-coach,” says Polonich.
“I want to build stability and trust” in the organization.
Polonich doesn’t look at the job as a stepping stone. I want to become entrenched in the community.”
Although he has no actual coaching experience, Polonich ran a hockey school at Yorkton for 10 years and was a captain or assistant captain on most teams he has been on, so was responsible for running practices over the years.
Discipline and coaching strategies “will come naturally.”
But discipline in hockey has changed he says. “The Hitler style has gone – you can’t crack the whip all the time.”
During his career, Polonich was known for his hard work and aggressive play.
“I did what it took to win at the pro level, but the game has changed,” he says. “And I think my style changed as a player.”
He is still strongly in favour of good work habits and hard work, but is not enthralled with unnecessary roughness and fights.
“Aggressive individuals are important for the team, but they have to control this aggression,” he adds.
As well, “players are not on my team for their own personal satisfaction,” but for the team.
Polonich says he thinks the fourth-place Terriers “have decent talent.” And the players have done “remarkably well” considering the number of coaches they have had this year.