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Georgetown coach wrangles up success in Calgary

Trent Cull named Central Division coach for next week's American Hockey League all-star game
Georgetown's Trent Cull will coach the Central Division team at the American Hockey League all-star game.

Four games into his tenure as head coach of the Calgary Wranglers, Trent Cull watched as his team’s top defensive prospect was helped off the ice. 

Jeremie Poirier, who had racked up seven points in the first three games, suffered a deep cut to his arm from a skate blade that has kept him sidelined for the last four months. 

A week later, the Wranglers' parent club, the Calgary Flames, recalled two of the team’s top scorers, Connor Zary and Martin Pospisil. Another week later, the American Hockey League’s reigning MVP, goalie Dustin Wolf, joined them in the NHL.

By the 10th game of the season, Cull only had 12 players remaining from his opening night lineup. And yet the Wranglers kept on winning. By early December, the Wranglers were 16-4-1.

Now in his sixth season as a head coach in the American Hockey League, Georgetown's Trent Cull is closing in on 200 wins as a head coach. Calgary Wranglers photo

Cull has been around long enough to know an ever-changing lineup goes with the territory.

“If you’re looking for status quo in the AHL, you’re not going to get it,” he said. “Whether we have injuries or the Flames have injuries, you have to be prepared.”

The Georgetown native’s work has not gone unnoticed. When the AHL holds its all-star game on Monday, Cull will be behind the bench for the Central Division team.

“I’m getting rewarded for the hard work the players have done this season,” he said.

Even if that’s true, Cull has earned the accolades. He played 10 pro seasons, carving out a career as a defensive defenceman doing all the things coaches love, before becoming one himself when his playing days were over.

This season marks the 50-year-old’s 19th season behind a bench, 14 of them in the AHL. After guiding the Vancouver Canucks’ farm team to a 161-116-32 record as head coach over five seasons, Cull finally got his NHL opportunity when he was promoted to oversee Vancouver’s defence last season. 

The timing was not ideal, though. Vancouver’s defence was riddled with injuries (the Canucks used 16 defencemen by the end of last season), and starting goalie Thatcher Demko missed three months. As the team struggles continued, head coach Bruce Boudreau was fired and Cull was also let go. 

Cull said he was fortunate to have the opportunity to work with Boudreau and it reinforced the importance of developing players. Undeterred by being fired for the first time in almost two decades behind the bench, Cull started looking for opportunities. 

When Wranglers’ head coach Mitch Love was hired as an assistant by the Washington Capitals, Cull approached the team. After what he described as a long and thorough interview process, Cull was hired.

“It’s one of 64 jobs (in the AHL and NHL), there’s just not many of them,” Cull said. “And only a few of them come up every year. (The Flames) always have a good American League team so it was a great opportunity.”

“Trent understands the development role of coaching in the AHL and has had success progressing many young players’ journey to the NHL,” Flames assistant general manager Brad Pascall said at the time of the hiring in July.

Cull said telling a player he is going to the NHL remains one of the best parts of the job. 

“You’re almost like a proud father,” he said. “With travel days, you spend a lot of time with these guys. It becomes personal. It’s a difficult league to play in, but these guys are hungry. It’s a great league to coach in, and they’re great young men to coach.”

And with the Wranglers continuing to battle for the division lead, it looks like they have the right man behind the bench.

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Herb Garbutt

About the Author: Herb Garbutt

Herb Garbutt has lived in Halton HIlls for 30 years. During that time he has worked in Halton Region covering local news and sports, including 15+ years in Halton Hills
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