October 8, 2009
Fire captain helps KnightsWarren has burning desire to coach hockey
By RYAN PYETTE, SUN MEDIA
There are some parallels between life at the Lawrence Clark fire hall and the London Knights bench. Hoses and hockey sticks aren't really that far off.
"There are," said Dave Warren, a fire captain at Station No. 6 on Oxford St. W. who often finds himself helping Knights boss Dale Hunter snuff out OHL opponents, "a few similarities."
Necessary traits like teamwork, leadership and dedication all transfer from frozen ice to burning buildings.
It all comes down to organization and time management for a veteran firefighter who juggles job, family and a burning desire to coach hockey.
"I have a colour-coded calendar," Warren said, "and I look at it every day to see where I have to be. Obviously, when I'm working, that comes first, but when I'm off, there's a pretty good chance you can find me in a rink."
Warren has run hockey schools for years since teaming up with ex-NHLer Doug Crossman two decades ago in creating Hockey Horizons.
He coaches an atom AAA team in the Junior Knights program.
And he has helped out the Knights the last seven years.
He has gained the club's trust and fills in on the bench when GM Mark Hunter is on a scouting trip. He has been in that role more than a dozen times. The team has only lost once.
He's back on the bench with Jacques Beaulieu. Both were involved with the London Nationals junior B team before joining the Knights.
"I had my interview with Mark Hunter at the old Ice House," Warren said, "and then the next day was the first game at the John Labatt Centre against Plymouth (in 2002)."
He has been a jack of all trades -- helping out with statistics, practices and, with his depth of London hockey knowledge, in a scouting capacity.
"I'm basically an uncle to (former Knight) Andrew (Wilkins) and I remember telling Mark about him and I know he thought, 'Oh, yeah, here we go, a family member', " Warren said, "but Mark went to watch him play and said if he was 6-foot-2, he'd sign a pro contract. It's funny because his dad and brother are both that big, but Wilky just wasn't."
Wilkins became one of the Knights most reliable defensive forwards. He learned a lot from the Hunters, but Warren said he's learned more.
"I learn something new every day with the Knights. Dale has 20 years in the NHL and is a great resource and I've really learned what to look for when you're scouting from watching and talking to Mark."
Dale Hunter loves that third set of eyes on the bench. Warren provides a quick response time when the call comes in.
That's, after all, the firefighter's way.
"The Hunters are pretty good at giving me as much notice as possible when they want me on the bench," he said, "so I try arrange it if I can."
He's also a Level II certified trainer, so if there was a rash of injuries that Knights athletic therapist Andy Scott had to attend to, Warren could technically hit the ice to help a hurt player.
But he is, first and foremost, a lover of skilled hockey. It's what he teaches and why he still gets calls from teams to come out to their practices.
In his time with the Knights, he has seen some sensationally-gifted players -- from Rick Nash to Rob Schremp's puck-handling skills and Pat Kane's laser-beam release.
"Corey Perry, to me, was something," Warren said. "You'd see him work on handling that puck. He did it every day before the games and he was incredible at it."
He has in recent years pulled away some from the hockey camp business. He still hears from Crossman, now in Florida, from time to time.
"But when he gets you on the phone, you know you're going to be on there for at least a half-hour," Warren said.
Tonight: at Windsor, 7:05 p.m.
Tomorrow: vs. Plymouth, 7:30 p.m., John Labatt Centre