It's Clayton's team now

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August 2, 2016 12:00 AM

Travis Clayton was named the new Lloydminster Bobcats head coach after former coach Gord Thibodeau resigned in June and went to Whitecourt. Last season he coached the Lloydminster Bobcats midget AAA team to a Alberta Midget Hockey League championship and their first Telus Cup appearance.

Travis Clayton always knew some day he would be the head coach of the Lloydminster Bobcats.
He just didn’t expect it to come a month after he was hired as the team’s assistant coach and assistant general manager.
When former head coach Gord Thibodeau resigned on June 28 to take the head coach and general manager job with the Whitecourt Wolverines, a move made for more personal reasons than hockey ones, Clayton was left with the reins in his hands, along with a group of freshly signed players and a few returning veterans and just two months until main camp.
Fresh off their Royal Bank Cup silver medals, Clayton was now the foreman, ready to build off the foundation that Thibodeau and another long time head coach, Garry VanHereweghe, left after last season.
And while there is no question that Clayton can coach the product on the ice, his experience recruiting, trading and scouting is still in it’s infancy stage, and will be the biggest challenge in his new role.
“The general manager part will be the toughest,” said Clayton. “The coaching part, being coach of the midgets and bantams I’m okay there, but the general manager part might be a little difficult, but I’ll be fine. I know Gord is a phone call away. A good friend. The month we had been together he has taught me a lot on that side.”
The plan from the time Clayton was hired was for him to eventually take over the head coaching duties of the Bobcats.
It was going to happen following this season, or the season after, giving him plenty of time to learn from Thibodeau, who is considered one of the best in the business, and whose coaching career in the Alberta Junior Hockey League is heading into its 23rd year.
But now Clayton is being thrown into the fire, as plans had to accelerate due to the Thibodeau leaving for Whitecourt and VanHereweghe stepping away from coaching himself and moving into the director of player personnel role with the Bobcats.
That’s plenty of experience gone from the Bobcats front office, but Lloydminster’s board feels Clayton is the right man to lead the team through the rebuilding process.
“Sometimes, having new ideas is not bad,” said Bryan Morrison, Bobcats president.
“Travis on the ice is ready to go, there is no question. Otherwise we wouldn’t have hired him. Where he maybe is a little hesitant is he doesn’t know his way around the league and people as Gord does. It’s not hockey work in what the kids are going to do, it’s the paper work in the background.”
Thibodeau said he will remain as a mentor to Clayton while he is in Whitecourt and if he has any questions to make a phone call and he will get the answer.
With so few players remaining from the team that competed at the RBC Cup, it’s as good as a time as any to see a coaching change, as Clayton can now build the future of the Bobcats in his image and philosophy from a roster that doesn’t have much remaining from the past.
“It’s my team now,” said Clayton. “We have six returning, good hockey players coming back. Gord, Garry and Dean (Moisan) have done a great job recruiting. There are some great 18-year-old hockey players out there, so we are going to be competitive.”
When asked about the feeling of calling the Bobcats ‘his team now’, Clayton was at a loss for words and could only smile. At the time of the announcement, it was still sinking in that the highest level of hockey in Lloydminster was now under his control, and experience or not, the Bobcats still needed a few more pieces to round out the roster and final plans needed to be made for main camp in late August.
But despite the fresh team and the new bench boss, the goal is still the same. The Lloydminster Bobcats want to win championships, and with Thibodeau now in Whitecourt, the thought is that the two teams want to meet in the AJHL North Division final, perhaps not this season, but shortly.
“Even when you’re rebuilding you want to get to the highest you can get, and that is the RBC Cup,” said Clayton. “Obviously that is a big stretch with six games returning. It’s a rebuilding year, but I don’t see us being down too long. Not with the talent left us, there is no excuse.”

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