Former NCAA hockey Div. 1 assistant coach and player returns to Canada for chance to lead behind the bench
Faced with the decision of moving to Canada to pursue his career dream and being separated from his family or stick as an assistant coach, Bert Gilling elected to uproot from Minnesota earlier this year.
The new head coach of the Mount Royal University (MRU) men’s hockey team, Bert Gilling, replaced Jean Laforest, who coached the Cougars for six seasons. Currently, MRU sits third in Canada West, just two points out of second behind rival University of Calgary.
Originally from Alexander, Man., Gilling received a scholarship to play defense at the University of Minnesota Duluth for four years. Upon graduating, Gilling realized his hockey career as a player was over. At a crossroads he then decided to take up coaching.
For the past 13 years, Gilling was the assistant coach at the NCAA level with Bemidji State University. In 2009, the Bemidji State Beavers reached the Frozen Four for the first time in the university’s history during the 2009 NCAA Division 1 Men’s Ice Hockey Tournament.
However, Gilling wanted to lead a team, and an opportunity arose this spring.
Achieving his goal of being a head coach came at the expense of his wife Sheila of 11 years, and three kids under the age of 10. Gilling plans on moving his family over to Calgary in the off-season of 2015.
“Any good coach will tell you, that you’re only as good as your support system,” Gilling said.
An obligation to the team, the athletic commission and his family are what keeps Gilling motivated to prove himself as a head coach and to take the MRU hockey program to new heights.
Gilling wants to instill a hard work ethic and an all-effort-all-the-time identity into his team.
“If you can remember one thing about how I want you to play it’s play like your hair’s on fire. Your feet are always moving. You’re tough to play against. It’s fast, it’s physical, and it’s exciting and fun to watch,” Gilling said.
It’s a style that will inspire and win over fans, teammates and coaches, and earns the respects of opponents.