Coach returns to Wheat City

RANDY SPORTAK -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 7:53 AM ET

It's not just a handful of the Hitmen players happy to be headed home.

Count co-coach Dean Evason among those who can see mom for a meal with the Hitmen in Brandon to begin the second round of the WHL playoffs.

Not to mention check out a few old haunts.

"The players, they're not allowed to go to my old haunts," said Evason. "For them, it's the hotel and the rink and that's it.

"I might take the coaching staff to the odd establishment, though," he added with a grin.

Actually, he nearly took his whistle to Wheat City instead of coming back to Calgary this season.

There was talk last summer Evason, who was let go as head coach of the Vancouver Giants after the 2003-04 season, would be behind the Wheaties bench.

The idea made sense on several levels.

Having spent five years behind benches in Kamloops and Vancouver, he wasn't short on experience.

Being a hometown product didn't hurt either.

But Evason said reports he was close to taking the reins -- Kelly McCrimmon, the owner, president and GM, kept them himself -- were a little overblown.

"We've had a good relationship through the years, since I've been in the Western league, and we've always talked," said Evason.

"When my job (ended) with Vancouver, he phoned and we talked a couple of times. There was no meetings, just conversations."

Instead, Evason ended up with the Hitmen, meaning a trip to Brandon in the playoffs is simply another chance to go home, although his parents -- Wheat Kings season-ticket holders -- came to Calgary during the first round of the post-season to watch the games.

Evason's not the only Manitoba product heading home for the second-round series that begins tonight.

Rookie centre Ryan White and underage defenceman Alex Plante hail from there.

Forward Brodie Dupont is from St. Lazare, just across the Saskatchewan border, and Justin Falk is a product of tiny Snowflake, Man., in the southern edge of the province.

Evason is happy some of the boys will get a rare chance to spend time with friends and family.

"Family is important to us and it's important to our guys as well," he said.

"We don't want them to be distracted, for sure, but we've talked extensively about the distractions and putting everything aside to concentrate on the things you can control and all that good stuff.

"They'll do all the team stuff but it'll be a nice opportunity to see all their family and friends.

"We hope it's a positive and believe it will be -- that they'll give us energy because they're playing in front of their friends and family in their hometown."


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