There have been many coaches who have come and gone in Yellowknife. Some do it for a couple of years, some do it for many years, some have had successful and some haven’t.

And then there’s Dan Schofield.

If you’ve played hockey in this town at any point over the past two decades, you will know who Dan Schofield is. There is plenty that can be said about him and everyone who’s ever played for him or dealt with him will have their own opinion but this is mine: Dan Schofield is one of the greatest hockey coaches this town has ever seen.

I will tell you why.

Simply put, Dan Schofield is a winner. There are very few sports people in this town who have the resume Schofield has and you can go up and down the list 101 times. Schofield got results, he got trophies, he got banners and chances are when you’re a young hockey player, that’s what you’re looking for.

The next time you’re at the Multiplex, go into the Shorty Brown Arena and look up at the banners adorning the rafters. Schofield has had a hand in almost all of them. He took teams around Western Canada and won. He took teams to the western portion of the United States and won. He took teams to Europe and won.

That was Schofield’s calling card – his teams were winners and if they didn’t win, they came close.

I’ve only been around these parts for 16 years and there may have been better minor hockey teams but the best I’ve ever seen – and reported on – was the 2013-14 edition of the Yellowknife Wolfpack peewee development team with Schofield at the helm. This was a team which was loaded with players that would go on to bigger things: Ethan Anstey, Anna MacCara, Annie King, Sam Schofield (his son), Liam Tereposky, Jonah Bevington, Austin Daniels … just a few names that came off of that squad. They laid waste to absolutely everything in their path that season and almost the entire team went on to play down south in some fashion or received tryout offers.

Another team I can recall is the 2010-2011 Yellowknife Wolfpack bantam development team, another Schofield-coached outfit. I very nearly caused a civil war in this town when I suggested that this squad be named Team of the Year by Sport North. Why wouldn’t they be? That team played a total of 69 games that season with a record of 66 wins, one regulation-time loss and two shootout losses. Find me another minor hockey team in Yellowknife that’s had a season like that. To date, no one has.

The Wolfpack development program itself is sort of a brainchild of Schofield’s. He had a hand in helping bring it to the forefront; Clem Hand was the one who had the idea in the first place. Schofield started up the Great Slave United and Yellowknife United Athletic Clubs to give minor hockey players a chance to play in spring tournaments and head overseas to Europe to play.

Naturally, the “participation brigade”, as I like to call them, shrieked at the audacity that someone would want players to have more opportunities and more chances to be scouted and be seen. After all, we kept hearing that scouts never came North, right? Our kids will never get the same chances as those kids down south because we live in the North, right? Remember those conversations? Schofield helped create programs to give those kids something akin to that same chance so naturally, people whined and moaned about it.

And let’s not forget the clinics he organized through the Polar United Club, his third venture. Again, Schofield went looking for a way to help improve the skills of hockey players in Yellowknife so instead of having parents spend thousands of dollars to send their kids south, why not spend a few hundred and bring the camps North? Again, it made sense so people whined and moaned about it because it was for kids in the club only. Here’s the catch: the club was open to anyone who wanted to join. All you had to do was pay to join and you were in. Pretty simple, eh?

There is much more you can say about Schofield but you can’t say it without acknowledging what he’s done for hockey in this city. You may not have liked his style (though I know I did) but Dan Schofield got the job done more often than not and he is owed a huge debt of gratitude. He’s leaving town on May 30 and into retirement so here’s hoping you thanked him for all he’s done before he leaves.

Thanks for everything, Dan, and happy trails.

James McCarthy

I've been hanging around the office as the sports editor for the better part of the last 16 years. In August 2022, NNSL Media decided to promote me to the managing editor's position, which I accepted after...

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