Bowler, Piroski Hit Landmarks; Davis Is Dean of West Coaches – by C. Scott Holland
With 27 teams in the GOJHL there are quite a number of head coaches. Some of them have occupied their head coaching positions for enough seasons to put up some good numbers and that statistic is best shown by three head coaches in the West Conference.
The latest to join a selective crowd is LaSalle’s Bill Bowler. Currently in his fourth campaign with the LaSalle Vipers, coach Bowler has become the Viper’s winningest coach. He has topped first Vipers’ coach John Nelson by notching 104 victories in 15 games coaches. But Bowler’s distinction goes a bit further. He becomes the first Vipers’ coach to tabulate more than 100 wins with the team. Overall including his two-year stint with the Chatham Maroons, Bowler has been at the helm of 265 games and has a record of 156 total wins with 95 losses, three overtime losses as a GOJHL head coach.
Another West coach who has reached a milestone plateau is Leamington’s Tony Piroski. The Flyers’ skipper is in his seventh season and has steered his club for 318 games and has 215 victories, 81 losses, 1 tie, 10 overtime losses and 6 shootout losses. Since Piroski took over in 2010/11, Leamington has won a minimum of 25 or more games per season – the last five have all been with more than 30 wins and with only one-third of 2016/17 gone, his team is on a pace to hit 30 wins one more time. Despite never winning a Sutherland Cup, Piroski’s success rate is one few others in the GOJHL can match.
However, the dean of West Conference GOJHL coaches is Mark Davis who has been associated with a number of West Conference teams for about 26 years. After his initial introduction to Jr. B hockey as an associate coach with Chatham back in he days when Harold McFarlane was the club owner and Wayne Jacklin was the head coach, Mark has been at the helm of Petrolia, Chatham, Lambton, Leamington (for a half season stint) and now Sarnia. Although records of early West coaches are hard to find, in the modern era (1979 to present) he has coached the most games – a grand total of 578 through Oct. 30, 2016. That mark easily has eclipsed Dan Rose’s previous high of 511
When his Legionnaires topped the Lambton Shores Predators 5-2 on Oct. 22, 2016, Davis racked up his 300th career victory. Presently, he has a lifetime record of 578 games coaches, 302 wins, 229 losses, 8 ties, 20 overtime losses and 11 shootout losses.
The numbers speak for themselves about his coaching abilities and as a teacher and motivator, yet they also put him in some pretty good company. Names like Jeff van Vliet, Barry Hearn, Marty Zorica, Dan Rose, Dave Torrie and Vern Stenlund. By the time the 2016/17 campaign ends, Davis will have hit 600 games coached – a plateau not easily reached. Obviously, these coaches have lasted because their coaching methods have developed young players to become better at the sport of hockey and life in general. Teaching valuable skills, effective communications, and instilling attitudes to breed success is not apparent in all coaches but these three are certainly noteworthy gentlemen.
Many coaches can be successful each in their own way and yet have only a brief tenure. Others become victims of poor recruiting or having teams which don’t gel. Coaching today is no easy task either, but when success comes along, it is well worth the time spent seeing how players blossom into better young men.
Scott Holland is an accomplished author, a former Western Jr. B Hockey League statistician and is recognized as the West Conference’s and GOJHL’s historian. A lifelong resident of Leamington Scott was a journalist for the now defunct Leamington Post for 26 years and currently writes for the Southpoint Sun. Among the books he has authored are: 75 Years: A History of the Leamington and Erie Shores Golf Course; A Century In The Making – History of Heinz Canada 1909-2009; Leamington Flyers 1992/93-2011/12 Platinum Anniversary Special Program; the Western Jr. B Record Book 2003/04 and 2004/05 editions; as well as updates of both the West Conference and GOJHL Record Books. He was been a member of he Leamington Jr. Flyers hockey club for the last 27 years and served many years as a board member, statistician, press box announcer, and scorekeeper among other duties. He has been named the West Conference Volunteer of Year and a Windsor-Essex Sportsperson of Year award. He resides in Leamington.