CALGARY, Alta. – The Canadian Junior Hockey League, in conjunction with the National Hockey League Coaches’ Association, announced Monday that Blake Spiller of the Portage Terriers (MJHL) has been named the inaugural recipient of the Darcy Haugan/Mark Cross Memorial Award, which is emblematic of CJHL Coach of the Year.
The honour, to be presented annually by the CJHL and NHLCA, is in memory of Humboldt Broncos (SJHL) head coach Darcy Haugan and assistant Mark Cross, who were among those who sadly lost their lives following the tragic events of April 6, 2018.
Spiller, the veteran Terriers’ bench boss earned the honour following a voting process completed by each of the CJHL’s 10-member leagues, for their efforts during the course of the 2018-19 regular season over fellow Coach of the Year finalists Ryan Papaioannou, Brooks Bandits (AJHL); Joe Martin, Merritt Centennials (BCHL); Jesse Winchester, Brockville Braves (CCHL) and Mike Tarantino, Oakville Blades (OJHL).
This year’s award will be formally presented during the 2019 NHLCA’s Global Coaches’ Clinic, June 20, in Vancouver, B.C.
Each year, the recipient of the award, as well as their assistant coach, will be invited as honourary guests to join the NHLCA at their annual Global Coaches’ Clinic, held in conjunction with the NHL Draft™.
Additionally, the recipient of the award will be recognized with a CAD $5,000 contribution to their team on behalf of the NHLCA, as well as a donation from Bauer Hockey of CAD $5,000 of equipment.
“Community hockey coaches are vitally important to the development and growth of today’s young hockey talent, both on the ice and in their communities,” said Mike Hirshfeld, Executive Director of the NHLCA.
“We are proud to support the NHLCA and CJHL’s Coach of the Year award as we are steadfast in our joint commitment to support these leaders, role models and mentors that give so much to our hockey community,” added Ed Kinnaly, CEO of Bauer Hockey.
For Spiller, he is arguably the most successful coach in the history of the MJHL.
His efforts behind the Terriers bench in 2018-19 helped lead his club to a MJHL-best record of 46-11-2-1 and 95 points overall.
Also, of note during the campaign, Portage boasted a league-leading winning percentage of .792 while topping the MJHL in goals scored with 277 and allowing the second-fewest against, at just 150, through 60 contests.
This marks the third time in his career Spiller has garnered CJHL Coach of the Year laurels and he is a four-time recipient of the Manitoba Junior Hockey League’s Coach of the Year honour.
In 13 years, he is the winningest coach in the Portage Terriers’ history and has led his franchise to nearly 900 regular season games coached and boasts more than 500 regular season victories.
Spiller has also led the Terriers to seven MJHL Turnbull Trophy championships, the 2015 Canadian National Junior A Championship and numerous NJAC appearances.
A former Jr. A player with the Terriers, Spiller is one of most humble people you’ll ever come across and is highly respected throughout the game.
You also have had dozens of his former players successfully moving on to higher levels of hockey, be it in the collegiate or university ranks, along with the competing professionally, as well as a multitude of others who have learned a great deal from him as they moved onto their post-hockey careers, be it in work, with family or being involved in their respective communities.
With files from: Brian Smiley, Media Relations Officer (MJHL)
Photo credit: Portage Terriers/MJHL
About the NHL Coaches’ Association (NHLCA)
The NHL Coaches’ Association is a professional organization that provides support and assistance to the head, associate, assistant, and specialty coaches of the 31 teams in the National Hockey League. Recognized and supported by the NHL, the NHLCA and its members seek to develop future coaches, give back to the hockey community, and grow the game of hockey globally. One of the Association’s primary objectives is to help develop all hockey coaches from the youth level up to the highest levels of hockey as the NHLCA strongly believes that coaches are important leaders within their communities, serving as role models at every level of the game. Together, the NHLCA and their members are committed to supporting all coaches in their initiatives of guiding, motivating, and inspiring players of all ages.