The Dinos will have a couple of NHLers barking orders for them on the ice this upcoming season. Ex-NHL defenceman Cory Cross and recently retired forward Brad Isbister have signed on as assistant coaches for the men's hockey team.
Both have connections to recently hired head coach Mark Howell. Isbister met Howell through the Hockey Canada program and Cross played with him at the University of Alberta in the early '90s.
"It's always nice when you're comfortable and familiar with the other guys, it makes it easier," says Isbister.
Isbister last played in the NHL for the Vancouver Canucks during the 2007-08 season. He played last year with Zug in the Swiss League before retiring in the off-season. He played 541 games for the Canucks, New York Rangers, Boston Bruins, Edmonton Oilers, New York Islanders and Phoenix Coyotes, compiling 222 points. Much like many current Dinos, he began his career in the WHL. Isbister played for the Portland Winterhawks before being drafted by the now defunct Winnipeg Jets in the third round, 67th overall.
"I've just played a lot of hockey games at the highest possible level," says Isbister. "Played for a bunch of different coaches and a bunch of different coaching styles. My experiences, all those games, all those years -- [I hope to] bring it all to these guys, pass on all the good stuff I've learned."
Cross last played for the Detroit Red Wings in 2006 and played 659 games for the Wings, Pittsburgh Penguins, Edmonton Oilers, New York Rangers, Toronto Maple Leafs and Tampa Bay Lightning. He finished his pro career in 2006-07 with the Hamburg Freezers in Germany. Cross started his career at the U of A, before being selected in the 1992 NHL supplemental draft by the Lightning.
Cross says it'll be different returning to the U of A as the opposition.
"Obviously, that's an excellent program," he says. "If we can give them a challenge this year, it'll be a feather in our cap for sure."
He knows how tough it is to be a university athlete and hopes he can pass some of his experiences along.
"I've been there -- I've juggled the studies and juggled the hockey and it's a tough thing to do," says Cross. "Every student athlete knows there's a fine line between time management of school and hockey and you have to stay in school to play hockey, so if I can help these guys, with any tips I've learned over the course of my years, I'll do that."
The Dinos have been practicing for three weeks now and are itching for their first game action. They play in preseason tilts against the Mount Royal University Cougars and the SAIT Trojans at the SAIT Campus Centre.
"We just want to improve on last year's standings and make the playoffs," says Cross. "Obviously winning a national championship is our main goal. To do that it's going to take a lot of hard work and extra effort from everybody."