Five years ago Kyle McLaren was patrolling the San Jose Sharks blueline as one of the League’s most renowned hip-checking defenseman.
Now he’s helping the next generation of hockey players hone their craft.
“It’s funny because the kids always ask me about the hip check and the yellow visor,” McLaren said with a laugh. “When it comes to the hip check, I tell them it’s something you learn over time. They’re still young but they’re so passionate.”
As the newest member of the Junior Sharks coaching staff, McLaren is taking the first step into the coaching side of his hockey career. After his departure from the NHL in 2010 due to knee complications he settled down in the Bay Area with his wife and four kids to figure out what he wanted to do next. He played men’s league hockey at Sharks Ice. He watched the NHL on television. And through those experiences he realized that the passion he’s had for the game since his mom taught him to skate in Saskatchewan at the age of 5 had never wavered.
Which is why he jumped at the opportunity when former teammate and current Director of Junior Sharks Curtis Brown gave him a call.
“Curtis approached me this past spring and see if I was interested in joining the organization as a coach,” McLaren said. “Being in San Jose I said why not? It’s fun being around the kids and teaching them. It’s something new that I haven’t done before, but it’s also something I know I can succeed at being around the game for so long.”
McLaren will officially serve as an assistant coach for the 15U boys Triple A team this year but it should come as no surprise that the entire Junior Sharks program will benefit from having a former San Jose Sharks defenseman on the coaching staff. Learning from a former player with a 12-season NHL career on his resume gives local players the opportunity to see how a former pro approaches the game on a day-to-day basis.
It is a unique asset that Bay Area hockey is fully beginning to realize—with former NHL players like McLaren, Curtis Brown, Mike Ricci, and Doug Wilson putting down roots in Santa Clara county following the culmination of their professional careers, a crucial support system of coaches and talent are helping give back to the hockey community they helped create.
A hockey community McLaren sees growing well into the future.
“It’s one of those things where the kids are getting so much better than 5-10 years ago,” McLaren said. “Every year you see more Californian kids getting drafted and getting a chance to play at the higher levels. California hockey has grown over time and I think it’s only going to grow even bigger.”
As a first year coach he is looking forward to teaching younger players and dealing with a new set of challenges. It’s all a part of the learning experience, and something that McLaren is anticipating as he helps the program continue to grow.
“Getting into coaching is something different for me,” McLaren said. “The opportunity to learn from Curtis and learn from the kids is great. I’ve always wanted to get back into hockey some way and being a coach with this program is a great way for me to do that.”
“I’m really looking forward to it.”