Former Canuck blueliner ready to coach Lakers

When Robert Dirk retired from the NHL in 1997, some of the players who will play for the Penticton Lakers this fall would have just been learning to skate then.

Robert Dirk will be the new coach of the Penticton Lakers who play in the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League.

When Robert Dirk retired from the NHL in 1997, some of the players who will play for the Penticton Lakers this fall would have just been learning to skate then.

While coaching the Okanagan Hockey Academy’s midget squad, Dirk’s players mocked him by saying Dirk wasn’t the prettiest skater. As the new Lakers coach, replacing

Evan Marble, Dirk’s payback can be making them bag skate.

“I can still rope them and throw’em down and there would no penalty,” joked Dirk, who played 402 NHL games and collected 42 points.

Because of the experience Dirk gained in the NHL, he feels what he says will carry weight with his players. Dirk is making the jump to junior B because he needed a change after four years coaching midget.

Following his retirement in ‘97, Dirk accepted a head coach job in the United Hockey League (which ceased in 2010 following a merger with the Central Hockey League) with the Winston-Salem Icehawks where he earned the title of UHL Coach of the Year. He spent two more seasons in the UHL with the Saginaw Gears. He then spent two seasons with the West Coast Hockey League’s Tacoma Sabercats. Dirk was then hired as the first head coach of the Texas Wildcatters of the East Coast Hockey League before joining the OHA in 2007.

Dirk looks forward to icing a competitive team that hopefully is able to collect a few more wins. He’d like to see them make the playoffs and win a round, but stated it’s about development.

“This is a great chance for me to coach and mentor players at the junior level,” said Dirk. “With the Lakers, I will be developing a team style that is smart and responsible defensively. One that wins races and battles. A team that is willing to sacrifice both on and off the ice. For the new Lakers, character is key.”

Dirk feels he better suited to coach junior with his experience and background.

Andy Oakes, president of the Okanagan Hockey Academy, believes Dirk will be a perfect fit for the Lakers.

“We’re very excited to see Dirk take on this new challenge,” said Oakes. “Without a doubt he was the best choice for the job. His players will continue to learn from his extensive experience both on the ice and behind the bench. The Lakers team is under construction at the present moment and Robert is already doing a great job getting the players he wants to have play for him that will meet his style of play.”