Pleau's big chance

JASON HILLS -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:14 AM ET

For Steve Pleau, this was an opportunity to take his coaching career in another direction and the Edmonton Oil Kings are reaping the rewards of his decision.

"I was in a different situation in Peoria where I worked for my father (St. Louis GM Larry Pleau). I am not going to sit here and say I got a shot as an assistant coach in the American League at the age of 24 if it wasn't for my father, and I have no problem admitting that," said Pleau, who is preparing his Oil Kings troops for the club's home opener this evening against the Kootenay Ice. "I used that experience in a positive way and I felt I needed to branch out on my own."

Pleau spent last season as an assistant coach with the Spokane Chiefs and has made a big impact during the short time he has been at the helm of the Oil Kings.

Just because Pleau was the son of a former NHL coach and now GM he feels he needs to work just as hard as anyone else for everything he's achieved in the coaching world. He spent seven years as an assistant with the Blues' farm team, before taking over for one season as head coach. Last year was his first taste of the WHL and now he is the main man behind the bench.

"I have a lot of enthusiasm for the game and I enjoy the game and I try to convey that to the players," said Pleau.

"I expect detail and work ethic and competitiveness but it's my belief you can get those three things and still have a positive atmosphere where players are still able to have fun."

There are two types of coaches. There are yellers and there are teachers and Pleau is definitely a teacher.

"When you're with the group, you have to be stern and you have to be clear in the message and when you are with the individual at times you have to get their feeling and see what their mindset is," he said. "I am not old. I am young and I know that and these guys should be able to feel that can talk to me whenever they need to."

After spending last season in Spokane, the 32-year-old is excited to have the opportunity to play a big part in the lives of the Oil Kings players.

"It's been a lot of work up to this point and there will be a lot more, but it's exciting to create the Oil Kings culture and as a coach it's something you really want to get into."

Pleau's father Larry had a 10 year professional career and nine years coaching at the pro level. Steve always had visions of following the same path as his father and he knew one day he would want to get into coaching.

"I always knew I wanted to be in hockey and I loved being around the room and being around the players when I was growing up," said Pleau.

"There comes a point in a guy's career when you realize that you won't become another Ronnie Francis even though you grew up idolizing him."

Pleau spent four seasons at the University of New Hampshire, but his playing career was ended by a concussion he received on a hit by former Oiler Mike Grier.

As for his first hockey memory? Try Gordie Howe.

Pleau's father was coaching the WHA's Hartford Whalers at the time.

"I was always getting noogies from Gordie and I remember the first time he shook my hand he was so strong," said Pleau.

"I didn't realize what was going on when I was a kid, but to experience that from a great legend is quite the honour and I have a couple of pictures with me and him in practice to remember it by."


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