By Greg Harder - Leader Post
Although he does all his work behind the scenes, Kurtis Lolacher hopes to make an impact every time the Regina Pats step on the ice.
The latest addition to Regina's support staff, Lolacher was hired this fall as the club's strength and conditioning coach. It's a newly created position for the Pats, who are following the lead of several other WHL teams who've tried to gain an edge by employing a specialized fitness expert.
In addition, the Pats want to lighten the workload of Greg Mayer, who can now focus more on the medical side after previously juggling triple duty as the team's trainer/athletic therapist/ equipment manager.
"I want to bring a different sense of motivation and work ethic and also their stamina and mindset, get everything right," offered Lolacher. "I want the players to succeed and in order to do that you need that strength component.
"For me to make that athlete a little bit faster, a little bit stronger, have more balance on the ice, be able to take a hit, give a hit and drive through a hit, it means a lot.
"I'm hoping our guys will benefit from getting stronger and staying strong throughout the year instead of pla-teauing and going downhill, which most hockey players will do because they're on the ice so much and not working out. I want to keep our guys going."
Lolacher was a natural fit for the Pats because he's from the Regina area and specializes in hockey, working in the off-season with local players like Everett Silvertips captain Ryan Murray, the second overall pick in the 2012 NHL entry draft.
A certified strength and sports conditioning coach, Lolacher has seven years of experience in the field with a wide range of expertise from training to nutrition and life coaching. He was approached last year by Pats GM Chad Lang, who brought Lolacher on board on a trial basis during training camp before formalizing the arrangement prior to the start of the regular season.
"A lot of the other teams are doing it, the NHL does it," noted Lolacher. "I think it's a step in the right direction for the organization as far as giving Greg (Mayer) less responsibility on some things but also to have somebody focusing on just one thing, making the athlete better."
The addition of Lolacher is the latest example of Pats ownership/management committing extra resources to the team's hockey operations, much like what happened last year when the club hired two full-time assistant coaches for the first time.
"I just think you always want to look at ways to grow and provide other opportunities for the guys," said Lang. "We have a guy (Lolacher) who has experience working with hockey players and understanding the dynamics of training a hockey player and probably moreso how you maintain it throughout the course of the year. I just think it's so beneficial.
"On the other side, we've probably stretched Greg as thin as we can the last couple years. Greg is real good at what he does. We just thought it was an opportunity to bring someone else in, take some of the workload off him. We thought it was a good fit to try it out."
Depending on the team's schedule, Lolacher works with the Pats about three or four days per week after practice and also puts them through stretching exercises before and after games. In addition, he spends time prior to games with the players who are out of the lineup and gives those who don't see a lot of icetime some extra attention following games.
"The feedback we're getting from our players is very positive," added Lang, who plans to re-evaluate the arrangement after this season.
"I've known Kurtis a long time. We said it was going to be a learning curve for all of us because it's the first time we had gone down this road. It's in the initial stages. I'm sure like anything after the year I'll have some things I'll want to tweak and the coaching staff and Kurtis will be through one year and he can give some suggestions.
"We've been real happy with him. If things continue to go the way I envision I could see it being something we (continue) moving forward."