New challenge for Nystrom
Timing is everything.
The last place Murray Nystrom expected to be coaching this season was at the University of Lethbridge, but when incumbent bench boss Spiros Anastas abruptly resigned last month, it opened the door for the former Brock men’s hockey coach.
“When this one came up, no one was really expecting it to come open,” said Nystrom, who was named the 10th coach in the program’s history. “It really came up fast. It was a late departure by the previous coach so the university had to put something together quick.”
About three weeks after Anastas left, Nystrom had the job.
“I don’t think it was difficult because of the condensed time factor,” said Nystrom, a 52-year-old native of Thunder Bay. “What made it feel right for me was meeting the people involved. I had some questions I was able to ask and they were answered.
“Everything kind of aligned with what they’re trying to do with their program and with what I wanted to do. Once we got through that it wasn’t a very difficult decision at all.”
Nystrom did some due diligence on his end and came away satisfied.
“I dug around a little bit and found it was a good fit,” he said. “I’ve always wanted to brach out a little bit in terms of where I was working and this allows me to work my way into the WHL (Western Hockey League) and I guess growing myself, not only as a hockey coach, but a hockey guy.”
The only question was the move out west, and that was settled very quickly when his family —wife Shelagh, and children Erik (22) and Hanna (18) — gave their blessing.
“I had the support of my family, which was obviously important,” he said. “The timing fit where our family was. Ten years ago I would have never even considered it. Now that they are older, I have their full support. It makes the move and the distance very workable. I can go full thrust into my position and the community and have fun while I’m doing it.”
Nystrom and his wife decided to make the 36-hour drive to Lethbridge, stopping in Thunder Bay to visit family along the way.
“It didn’t take us long to realize we live in a really big country,” he said. “Just the drive itself is a great experience.”
The couple toured Lethbridge (population 92,000) for a day and by the next afternoon Shelagh was on a plane home.
Nystrom then met his team and went to work.
“It was on the fly right away, which was great,” he said.
All involved realize Nystrom has some catching up to do.
“Everybody understands that and when I first met with the team we discussed that,” he said. “Each day and each week we’ll eliminate some of those things that create a little bit of chaos. As I get more comfortable in the position and more comfortable getting to things and getting answers as I understand how things work out here.
“It’s just a matter of time and I think everyone on the staff understands that. They have been extremely helpful and patient to date.”
Nystrom, who hopes to move into an apartment early next week, is excited by the challenge.
“I told the team my priority is them and the team so we can coordinate things on the ice to get ready for the upcoming season. In the background, we’ll be doing all the others things involved in the job.
“The transition has been on going but a lot smoother than it could have been and that’s because of the people who have been extremely supportive and helpful.”
Nystrom spent 18 years as the head coach of the Badgers, leading the club to the program’s first University Cup appearance in 2008. Over his 18 years, the 2008 CIS Coach of the Year compiled a record of 191-227-18-39, while making 14 appearances in the OUA playoffs.
He was also named the OUA Coach of the Year in 2004 and 2008.
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