ESTEVAN - The Regina Pats’ Western Hockey League preseason game against the Swift Current Broncos on Tuesday night at Affinity Place was special on multiple levels for Pats’ assistant coach Brad Herauf.
Not only did the Pats win the game 4-2, but it was a homecoming of sorts for Herauf. He played 2 1/2 seasons for the Estevan Bruins from 1999-2000 to 2001-02, and was the team’s MVP for the 2000-01 season.
When Herauf was a member of the Bruins, the club was still playing at the old Civic Auditorium. He never had a chance to play at Affinity Place, and he marvelled at the 11-year-old facility.
“What an arena you guys have here,” said Herauf. “It’s better than some of the rinks we play in for the WHL. To be back here and see some old friends that I’ve had for a long time, it’s just good to say hello to people.”
Herauf’s oldest son Levi spent last season with the Estevan Steelhaus U18 AAA Bears hockey program, so Herauf made numerous trips to Estevan last year. Prior to his son’s time with the Bears, Herauf had been in Estevan a handful of times.
“I still have a lot of friends back in Estevan, so I see a lot of people in the city.”
Herauf was dealt by the Bruins to the Battlefords North Stars at the trade deadline in 2002, and after finishing his junior career with the Stars in 2002-03, he played with the Oklahoma City Blazers of the Central Hockey League for two seasons, and then had two seasons with the Utah Grizzlies and one year with the Florida Everblades of the East Coast Hockey League, and one season with each of the Albany River Rats and the Charlotte Checkers of the American Hockey League.
Once he returned to Saskatchewan, Herauf spent two years as the head coach of the Regina Pat Canadians U18 AAA team and joined the Pats as an assistant coach in 2015-16.
Even when he was playing in the U.S., he would hear stories about the Civic Auditorium, the size of the arena and the amount of physical play.
And he’s always tried to keep tabs on how the Bruins are playing.
“I’ve always been watching the SJHL, and when Chris [Lewgood] was the coach here, I followed the team quite a bit, and obviously the last couple of years have been pretty exciting, with building to the Centennial Cup.”
He has been able to meet with current Bruins’ head coach and general manager Jason Tatarnic and assistant coach Phil Fife, and they seem like “really great people” to be leading the organization right now, Herauf said.
As for the Pats, they’re still a young team up front with players who are 17 and 18 years old. They’re happy with the team’s direction, he said, and their young players are getting better all the time.
He’s never had the chance to coach, or play with or against, a player like Pats’ superstar Connor Bedard, who is expected to go first overall in next year’s NHL Entry Draft.
“He asks really good questions. He’s really engaging in being part of the game plan. He wants to know what’s going on and he wants to see who he’s playing with, and that’s really refreshing. He’s already talking to you like he’s a man, and so you’re having adult conversations.”