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‘A wonderful odyssey’: Tom Coolen inducted into Acadia Sports Hall of Fame


WOLFVILLE - Tom Coolen describes his induction into the Acadia Sports Hall of Fame as “a special kind of occasion.”

The induction of Coolen, Acadia’s head hockey coach from 1987-1995, took place June 18 during the annual hockey Axemen celebrity dinner.

“It’s really nice they’re doing this while my daughter Lily is a student at Acadia,” he said. Lillian Coolen will enter her fourth year at Acadia this fall.

Coolen’s coaching career has taken him literally all over the world, but he has retained a special place for Acadia and Wolfville.

“I spent nearly 10 years here, really the longest time I’ve spent anywhere. My wife Jane and I met and married here, both our children were born here. It’s a special place, both for me and for my family,” he said.

“People have asked Lily, why Acadia? She was born here, and up until age 16, it was the only university she knew.”

Coolen said he was glad the induction was taking place in the summer, when he could attend without distractions.

“Obviously a lot of thought went into it,” he said. “I’ve never been to one of these hockey dinners. I’m really looking forward to it.”

See more photos from the dinner here.

Coolen left Acadia in 1995 to become an assistant coach with the Saint John Flames, Calgary’s AHL farm team. He went on from there to coach in Germany before returning to the U.S. and the Waco Wizards.

In 1998, he was named head coach of the UNB Varsity Reds, where he spent two seasons. He also coached the Moncton Wildcats of the Quebec Major Junior League and rotated between coaching in Europe and North America since then. He most recently spent 2014-2015 as an assistant with the NHL’s Buffalo Sabres.

“It’s been a wonderful odyssey. The last four years have been a dream come true,” he said.

“I’ve coached at the Olympics, at the world championships, and in the NHL. I’ve gotten to see the world through hockey, met some wonderful people and made some great friends.”

 

At Acadia

Leaving Acadia was hard, he said, but it was something he felt he had to do.

“I had a chance to go to Europe, and that’s what I did.”

From 1987-1995, Coolen’s Acadia teams compiled a 144-42-15 record. The Axemen won conference championships in 1992, 1993 and 1994, and the CIAU championship in 1993. The 1995-1996 Axemen, a team Coolen assembled, won a second national title for Acadia.

Asked his best memory from his time at Acadia, Coolen’s response was surprising.

“The most meaningful thing was this past season in Buffalo, everywhere we went on road trips, my former players, especially from the 1993 team, got in touch with me,” he said.

“That really jumps out at me. After all these years, I’m still able to connect with my former Acadia players, and see how well they’ve done for themselves. That means the most to me, more than the wins and more than the championships.”

At the same time, “the winning was great.”

It also was a time of change – Coolen started out at the old Ice Palace and helped open the new arena.

“People came from as far away as Yarmouth to watch us play,” he said.

Acadia had great players, he said, and with recruiting, the team kept getting better and better.

“Eventually, we were the team everyone was looking up at.”

He recalls Acadia’s rivalry with Dal in the early and mid-90s.

“Our teams were close, but we always seemed to find a way to win. I don’t think Dal ever beat us in a game that really counted,” he said.

 

No regrets

“I’ve been living my dream the past four years,” says Coolen.

As a coach, he said, “you always dream of coaching at the highest level. I’ve been fortunate how everything has fallen into place. To have been able to coach at the Olympics, the world championships, and in the NHL, has been a dream come true.”

At almost 62, Coolen could be looking at retirement, but he’s not done yet.

“We’ll see how it goes, but I feel I could have 10 more years left in me. I’m not ready to pack it in. I enjoy it too much.” 

The induction of Coolen, Acadia’s head hockey coach from 1987-1995, took place June 18 during the annual hockey Axemen celebrity dinner.

“It’s really nice they’re doing this while my daughter Lily is a student at Acadia,” he said. Lillian Coolen will enter her fourth year at Acadia this fall.

Coolen’s coaching career has taken him literally all over the world, but he has retained a special place for Acadia and Wolfville.

“I spent nearly 10 years here, really the longest time I’ve spent anywhere. My wife Jane and I met and married here, both our children were born here. It’s a special place, both for me and for my family,” he said.

“People have asked Lily, why Acadia? She was born here, and up until age 16, it was the only university she knew.”

Coolen said he was glad the induction was taking place in the summer, when he could attend without distractions.

“Obviously a lot of thought went into it,” he said. “I’ve never been to one of these hockey dinners. I’m really looking forward to it.”

See more photos from the dinner here.

Coolen left Acadia in 1995 to become an assistant coach with the Saint John Flames, Calgary’s AHL farm team. He went on from there to coach in Germany before returning to the U.S. and the Waco Wizards.

In 1998, he was named head coach of the UNB Varsity Reds, where he spent two seasons. He also coached the Moncton Wildcats of the Quebec Major Junior League and rotated between coaching in Europe and North America since then. He most recently spent 2014-2015 as an assistant with the NHL’s Buffalo Sabres.

“It’s been a wonderful odyssey. The last four years have been a dream come true,” he said.

“I’ve coached at the Olympics, at the world championships, and in the NHL. I’ve gotten to see the world through hockey, met some wonderful people and made some great friends.”

 

At Acadia

Leaving Acadia was hard, he said, but it was something he felt he had to do.

“I had a chance to go to Europe, and that’s what I did.”

From 1987-1995, Coolen’s Acadia teams compiled a 144-42-15 record. The Axemen won conference championships in 1992, 1993 and 1994, and the CIAU championship in 1993. The 1995-1996 Axemen, a team Coolen assembled, won a second national title for Acadia.

Asked his best memory from his time at Acadia, Coolen’s response was surprising.

“The most meaningful thing was this past season in Buffalo, everywhere we went on road trips, my former players, especially from the 1993 team, got in touch with me,” he said.

“That really jumps out at me. After all these years, I’m still able to connect with my former Acadia players, and see how well they’ve done for themselves. That means the most to me, more than the wins and more than the championships.”

At the same time, “the winning was great.”

It also was a time of change – Coolen started out at the old Ice Palace and helped open the new arena.

“People came from as far away as Yarmouth to watch us play,” he said.

Acadia had great players, he said, and with recruiting, the team kept getting better and better.

“Eventually, we were the team everyone was looking up at.”

He recalls Acadia’s rivalry with Dal in the early and mid-90s.

“Our teams were close, but we always seemed to find a way to win. I don’t think Dal ever beat us in a game that really counted,” he said.

 

No regrets

“I’ve been living my dream the past four years,” says Coolen.

As a coach, he said, “you always dream of coaching at the highest level. I’ve been fortunate how everything has fallen into place. To have been able to coach at the Olympics, the world championships, and in the NHL, has been a dream come true.”

At almost 62, Coolen could be looking at retirement, but he’s not done yet.

“We’ll see how it goes, but I feel I could have 10 more years left in me. I’m not ready to pack it in. I enjoy it too much.” 

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