GF Tribune: Meet the Coach: Americans head coach Jeff Heimel

GF Tribune: Meet the Coach: Americans head coach Jeff Heimel

 

By Steve Schreck, Tribune Sports Writer (sschreck@greatfallstribune.com)

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Jeff Heimel is the head coach of the Great Falls Americans Junior A hockey team. He is in his third year with the Americans.

Q: Where are you from again, Jeff?

A: St. Paul, Minnesota.

Q: How did you make it out here?

A: I ventured to Phoenix, Arizona, for college. And I played some junior hockey down there. So I was down there, and I was working for a team when I started coaching. Long story short is that I found another opportunity and I was young, single. I actually ventured out to Wyoming first. That was in the Western States league, and took over that franchise. And then it wasn’t a good fit, and I was looking for an opportunity and Great Falls opened up. I knew a couple guys in the area, and they kind of pointed me over to the owners and that was it. It was kind of random, to be honest with you.

Q: Did you play a lot of hockey when you were younger?

A: Yeah. I played in Minnesota. And I spent three years in Phoenix playing junior hockey for the Phoenix Polar Bears. We were a national championship contender every year. Great program. Learned a lot, probably everything, at least my model about the way an organization should be and different things. We went to two national tournaments and obviously had fun with that … I started coaching when I was 23. But I started (playing) when I was 5.

Q: How old are you now?

A: 28.

Q: What’s the experience been like coaching here?

A: It’s been fun. I’ve gotten married and both my kids were born in Great Falls, so it’s been literally, from the second we got here, I mean my life has changed completely. Great Falls is just a special place to me. To go through those type of life experiences in one place, and then obviously the growth of the team and everything, it’s just been great. (Owner) Jim (Keough) has just been unbelievable. He’s been great. Just the support of the community. I’ve went from a young adult to an adult here in Great Falls, and it’s just been a huge transitional period for me. It’s been really good.

Q: What are your plans for the future? Are you at the point where you are looking to move up?

A: I think eventually. I’m in such a great spot here. Good ownership and obviously a good community. My family, we have a stable environment here. But yeah, eventually I would love to move up. I think if an opportunity presents itself, maybe you cross that bridge when it comes. I’m just taking it year by year and as of right now I am returning next year.

Q: What position did you play back in the day?

A: Forward. Wing, center, I played both.

Q: You follow the NHL, right?

A: Yeah, a ton.

Q: Who’s your favorite team?

A: The Wild. The Minnesota Wild. They’re on fire right now, actually … It’s nice. I grew up in Minnesota, and I was a North Stars fan when I was a little kid. The hometown loyalty will never go away, I guess.

Q: Who’s you favorite player of all-time?

A: I was a huge Joe Sakic guy back in the day. I loved him, loved the way he played the game. (Steve) Yzerman. A couple of those guys were in their prime when I was growing up. (Mike) Modano.