Lyle Stokotelny has seen the Dauphin Kings from more sides than the average fan.
He was a player, winning the Manitoba Junior Hockey League championship in 1977, a coach, earning a league title in 1993, and a spectator, watching his son Luke play for the Kings from 2006-09 and come within two wins of an MJHL championship in 2007.
According to Stokotelny, every experience gave him a little different perspective on the Kings.
“As a player, you have a hands-on say as to what’s going on on the ice a little bit more,” he said. “But as a coach, you’re at the liberties of your players. You have to pass your emotions on to them and get the players to bring it out and do it for you.”
And what about being a dad?
“That was kind of a neat experience,” Stokotelny said. “I know Luke also did very well and, obviously, (wife) Kathy and I were very proud of him.”
By the time Stokotelny joined the Kings in the late 1970s, they were almost a decade into their existence, with one dynasty already behind them.
In 1968, Dauphin was one of four teams from the Central Manitoba Junior Hockey League to merge with the Manitoba Junior Hockey League. The new league retained the MJHL name and played its first season in 1968-69 with eight teams in the fold.
The Kings were front-runners in the new league, winning the championship in three of its first four
seasons (1969, 19) and adding title No. .
Stokotelny remembers the ‘77 version of the Kings as one that could beat you with all four lines. He was one of three 100-point scorers on a team that scored 305 times in 52 games, an average of close to six goals per game.
“That was definitely the most talented team I was ever a part of, and one of the most talented I have ever seen,” he said. “The defencemen were exceptional. They were so skilled that it really allowed the forwards to play as offensive as they wished.”
Six years later, in 1983, the Kings once again stood atop the MJHL mountain, led by captain Barry Trotz, the current head coach of the Nashville Predators. That year was the closest the Kings have come to winning the national title, as they took the Anavet Cup with a victory over the Saskatchewan champion Yorkton Terriers before falling in the national semifinal to the Abbotsford Flyers.
After six titles in 15 years, it would be a decade before Dauphin raised another championship banner to the rafters, this time with Stokotelny behind the bench in 1992-93.
The Kings finished the regular season in third place, just two games over .500 (24-22-1-1), but gelled at the right time of year.
“It was a rebuilding year for the hockey club, and our goal was just to make the playoffs,” he said. “But once again, we were fortunate enough to have some very skilled players. We picked up some young players that, through the season, developed beyond anybody’s expectations. And by the time the playoffs came around, we were a real competitor.”
After beating the Winkler Flyers in the opening round of the playoffs, the Kings met the powerhouse Portage Terriers, the only team to win more than 30 games that season. Portage had finished 15 points ahead of the second-place Flyers and 20 ahead of the Kings.
Numbers didn’t matter to the Kings as they knocked off the Terriers before sweeping St. Boniface for the league title.
“Once we (beat Winkler), there was no stopping those guys,” Stokotelny said.
That was the last taste of glory for the Kings, who have returned to the MJHL final just once since the 1993 triumph, losing to Selkirk in six games in 2007.
But this year the chance at that elusive national crown will come as the Kings host the 2010 RBC Cup, Canada’s 40th National Junior A Championship.
“They’re just going to have to keep their heads in the game,” Stokotelny says of the 2009-10 Kings. “Don’t start blaming and poking holes in each other. Just focus on the task at hand and take it shift by shift. They’ve got a great team and a great shot at it.”