Mike Basford may be a rookie assistant coach for the Delta Ice Hawks, but few can offer the different perspectives of the game like he can.
The Richmond native ended his playing career eight seasons ago by helping the Ice Hawks win their one and only provincial championship as a key member on the blueline. The following year, he remained involved in the Pacific International Junior Hockey League, except this time as a referee. Basford would go on to officiate for the next seven seasons, working games in the B.C. Hockey League, Western Hockey League as well as the PIJHL.
"I started officiating when I was 12 so when I finished playing it really took off," he said. "I didn't find it being that different than a player as you had to prepare yourself the same way for each game. Maybe that's why I had a good feel for it."
By the end of the 2011-12 season, the grind of working in three leagues across the province had taken its toll. Basford quit officiating and teamed up with a friend to coach for the very first time - guiding a Richmond Minor Atom A2 rep team to a league championship.
"I had just lost the passion for it to be honest," he said of his decision. "It wasn't easy to go to the rink anymore. The long road trips going to the same places. I just felt it was time for a change. I wanted to stay in hockey and thought coaching would be the best way to do it."
Basford was looking for a greater challenge behind the bench and Ice Hawks general manager Peter Zerbinos was more than happy to offer it to him. The organization made a coaching change last spring, welcoming back Roger Ross and Shane Kuss who happened to coach Basford during his time in Delta. It was a perfect fit as the club was looking for a younger mentor the players could identify with.
"It's been eight years since I played but still feel I know the game well and could even play if I had to," smiled Basford. "The league is not as rough and tumble compared to when I first started. It's quicker now and there are more skilled players.
"I think I can bridge the gap between the coaches and players but right now I'm just trying to get comfortable with it, to be honest."
Making the transition smoother is the Hawks using basically the same system when Basford played under Kuss and Ross. Still, he is finding himself coming home from his job at a Richmond electrician company and brainstorming about his new hobby.
"There's definitely more homework away from the rink compared to being a player or an official," he added. "As a coach you are always thinking, whether it's about what to work on at the next practice or line combinations. It's been an awesome experience so far."
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