The 2021-22 Kootenay International Junior Hockey League season can’t start soon enough for Mark Readman.
The Dawson Creek, B.C. native was recently named the Princeton Posse’s new head coach and assistant GM. He hasn’t been a head coach since he was the bench boss of the Dawson Creek Junior Canucks in 2019-20. He was the Canucks’ assistant coach and assistant GM for two seasons before that.
He joins the Posse from the Creston Valley Thunder Cats, coaching alongside GM Bill Rotheisler, who is excited for the 25-year-old taking on this new challenge. Rotheisler’s close connection to Posse GM Mark McNaughton helped during the hiring process.
“Mark was a great addition to the team and was one of the reasons we were able to maintain a positive attitude throughout this past season,” Rotheisler said on the Thunder Cats website. “He always contributed great ideas to practices and was popular and approachable with the players. I have no doubt he’ll have success with Princeton and exceed their expectations.” Readman views himself as more of a players coach.
“My ability to relate and communicate with players is pretty strong. I get pretty close with players,” says Readman. Readman learned that approach from his mentor and former Ontario Avalanche coach Chris Shaw, a former Kootenay International Junior Hockey League coach with the Nelson Leafs. Shaw gave Readman a chance as a player when he knew very little about him. Readman saw how transparent Shaw was with players, but also put in the effort to get to know them. Readman also saw how Shaw created a competitive environment.
“He always told me, ‘it’s my job to push you every single day until you hit your wall. And then it's my job to get you to blow past that wall and break it down. Remember every single night you shut your eyes, that wall magically rebuilds itself 10 feet further from where it started,’” Readman recalled. “‘You have to work that much harder to get right back up to the wall. Knock it down and move it another 10 feet the next day.”
Readman also received valuable advice from former NHL head coach Ken Hitchcock, which was to always make time to talk to five players every day about something other than hockey. “It forces you to go out of your way and talk to guys. Get to know them,” says Readman, who last played hockey in 2017-18 with the Dawson Creek Canucks, playing three games. “With my past experiences, and some of my strengths I feel I can bring into the environment in Princeton, there is a chance for us to have some success.” Readman’s coaching resume includes quickly climbing the ranks of Dawson Creek Minor Hockey, North East B.C. and the Yukon Trackers. What drew Readman to the Posse are the people in the organization and the opportunity.
He and McNaughton share the same vision.
“It was just through connections between myself and Mark seeing eye-to-eye on a lot of things in terms of organizational growth, player development, but at the same time, prioritizing team success,” says Readman. “It was just kind of a natural fit. It was one that was really hard to turn down. I thought I was ready to be a head coach again and especially in a league as highly touted as the KIJHL,” continued Readman.
“It was a really hard opportunity for me to turn down.” Readman is looking to add more of his own spices “to a dish that’s already pretty damn good.” “One key of Princeton is they never really sacrifice individual development for team success,” says Readman.
“It’s just all part of the same package. You look at their history, their ability to produce and move players on to the next level. Whether it's the BCHL, AJHL, I think that goes hand-in-hand with the expectation. I love players that are driven. I want guys to want to be successful.”
Players will earn Readman’s respect through hard work. He wants his team to play at a high pace and always push it. He wants the Posse to put teams on their heels.