Two's the boss

ERIC FRANCIS -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 9:13 AM ET

It's a concept most teams operate under at the tyke or atom levels.

It is there the role of co-coaches essentially breaks down into one parent manning the door for the forwards and the other opening the gate for the rearguards.

When one dad has to stay late at work, the backup goaltender turns doorman.

Having worked splendidly for minor hockey teams across this great nation since the game was invented, Calgary Hitmen GM Kelly Kisio saw no reason why co-coaches couldn't work in the Western Hockey League, albeit with slightly different duties.

So, at the urging of Flames president Ken King, Kisio added coach to his GM title and hired former Vancouver Giants bench boss Dean Evason to be his equal. Well, sort of.

"I have the last say," smiled Kisio, whose club will look for its first win of the season at the 'Dome tonight against Lethbridge.

"He'll tell me to screw off, I'll tell him to screw off and it'll be healthy."

Truth is, the two former teammates couldn't have a stronger relationship, having played and roomed together in San Jose where their families also grew close.

So when Kisio reluctantly decided he could handle double duties for the league's top-ranked Hitmen, he wasted little time calling his old pal.

"We'll be banging everything off each other," said Kisio, who hired Evason after he was let go by the Vancouver Giants.

"We talk about everything and, most of the time, we're on the same wavelength. We know how each other ticks and what it takes. I knew one day I'd love to work with him but never thought it'd be like this."

The way the unique setup will work is simple, they agree. Kisio is in charge of the forwards and the powerplay, while Evason oversees the defencemen and penalty killing. As for the final pep talk before the game, the quiet Kisio will act as the master motivator.

""Some days if I get too mad," Kisio added, "he might have to do it."

That ought to happen more often than you'd think given the intensity Kisio brings to everything he does.

"Kelly is a pretty straightforward guy. I think I can probably keep him a little looser," said Evason, who became a Hitmen assistant during the team's 1999 Memorial Cup playoff run following a lengthy NHL career.

"As a head coach, people have said I'm not hard enough or grumpy enough. I'm a very positive person and Kelly can be a hard-ass. And that's what you need to be a junior coach. He's very demanding in terms of work ethic and attention to detail and he's going to make these guys accountable."

Enter the ol' good-cop/bad-cop scenario.

"I think there'll certainly be instances where Kelly will harp on a player and I'll have to come in and say, 'Listen, this is why he's doing it,' " said Evason.

"A lot of times, these young people haven't been made accountable because they're the best players in bantam so they get all the ice time regardless. If a guy makes a mistake, the coach says 'It's OK, go score another goal.' Here it's different."

It sure is, especially in Calgary where the rare coaching tandem is treating the experience like two kids in a candy store.

"Our club has as good a roster as anyone in the league," Kisio said. "It all depends how they buy in to what Dean and I want."

They want whatever it takes to get their club back to the Memorial Cup. And they're willing to do anything to help the players get there. Except open bench doors, that is.


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