It is a busy time of year for coaches all across the NA3HL. The recruiting season in full swing, and Helena's new Head Coach and General Manager Bob Richards is right in the thick of the action, building this team for his debut year as bench boss for the Bighorns.
Richards replaces former Coach/GM Jon Jonasson behind the helm of a franchise in unfamiliar territory. The Bighorns just barely missed the playoffs last season, something that hasn't happened in Helena for over 14 years. Jonasson, along with former assistant-turned-interim head coach Blake Mendenhall went to the Breezy Point North Stars of the NA3HL, where the past two head coaches have found promotions to the tier two NAHL Kenai River Brown Bears coaching staff.
Bob Richards, however, has been living in Helena with his wife, Dana for the last 3 years, raising their three boys in the town Richards played his junior hockey days from 1996 to 1999, under none other than Scott Cunnigham himself. He returned in 2007 and 2008 to assist Cunnngham on the bench, earning a Division Championship and a NORPAC Cascade Cup in those years respectively. Since returning to Helena, Bob has coached the Helena Bighorns High School team, winning a State Championship in '14 and runner-up this past season.
"I'm not the guy that's looking to only stay here one or two or three years and then move on and move up [coaching ranks]", says Richards. "I moved here to raise my family. I love Helena and I'm looking to stay here for a long time."
Bob's task of replacing a squad from last season that saw a little bit of turnover in the roster is no easy one at all. He has been on the phone since the minute he was hired, talking to former Bighorns, current ones, and other guys he's prospecting. Richards will travel quite a bit in the coming weeks to visit players at various camps, talk with parents, and compare notes with league scouts and friends of the Bighorns organization. "I'm not just looking for skilled players, I'm looking for the ones with heart," he says. "If a player is willing to work hard and put in the effort, I can teach him where to be. For me, skating is the most important skill I look for. Hard working and great skaters are what I look for first, and of course those that have scoring touch as well."
This former Ice Pirate is ready to take on the challenge: "Right The Ship" for Helena's beloved Bighorns.
If you are interested in learning more about becommin a Bighorn, call Coach Richards at 406-475-2814 or fill out the form on our website at www.helenabighorns.com under the "Tryouts" tab.