Nova Scotia

Tom Coolen's coaching travels make him a nomad of hockey

Tom Coolen has led a nomadic life as coach. From Europe to the Olympics to the NHL. Now he's coaching senior hockey in Newfoundland.

'I've seen the entire hockey world and it's been a great experience for me'

Tom Coolen is currently the coach of the Grand Falls-Windsor Cataracts of the Central West Senior Hockey League in Newfoundland. (CBC)

Hank Snow's country hit I've Been Everywhere could be Tom Coolen's theme song.

As a hockey coach, Coolen has lived a nomadic lifestyle. The latest journey for the 62-year-old Halifax native is in central Newfoundland with the Grand Falls-Windsor Cataracts of the Central West Senior Hockey League.

"Back in my younger days when I played, that was an option for players to go," said Coolen. "I had been talking to Brian Casey, a former player of mine at Acadia who had been coaching over there and he asked me if I was interested."

In Nova Scotia, Coolen is best known as the coach who led the Acadia Axemen to their first ever national championship in 1993. He spent eight years coaching powerhouse Acadia teams.

Those seasons in Wolfville were the longest run he's had with any organization.

Along with Acadia, he also coached at University of New Brunswick. Throw in the Moncton Wildcats of the QMJHL and the Saint John Flames of the AHL as a couple of other Maritime stops.

'I've seen the entire hockey world'

But his luggage has really gotten a workout with his stints overseas. Coolen has coached in Denmark, Finland, Germany, Austria and Italy.

He also made two stops with minor pro teams in Texas — the Waco Wizards and Amarillo Gorillas.

"I've seen the entire hockey world and it's been a great experience for me," said Coolen. "I've always loved the game but also I like to travel. I've seen a lot of stuff, mountains, oceans, deserts."

Coolen served as an assistant coach with Ted Nolan when he was in Moncton. The two have continued to work together, taking their relationship to the Olympics and the NHL.

Coolen served as an assistant coach with the Latvian Olympic team that came within a goal of upsetting Canada at the 2014 Olympic Games in Sochi, Russia.

"The brass from Hockey Canada were so relieved when they won that game, that could have been the biggest hockey upset in Olympic history," said Coolen.

'It was a good feeling'

When Nolan brought Coolen to his coaching staff with the Buffalo Sabres in 2014 it was the highlight of Coolen's coaching career. After having his passport stamped dozens of times, he had finally made it to the NHL.

"That's the top of the hockey ladder and to feel you reached that, even if it was just for one year, you feel like you've made it to the top of the hockey mountain, it was a good feeling."

The dream came to an end when Buffalo fired Nolan and his coaching staff after the 2014-15 season.

Coolen says he doesn't plan on coaching forever, but says he still has a lot of energy and his ties to the Latvian national program remain strong.

His job this season in Newfoundland is only on the weekends. Through the week he's been teaching school in Fredericton.

About the Author

Paul Palmeter is an award-winning video journalist born and raised in the Annapolis Valley. He has covered news and sports stories across the province for 30 years.


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