Warburg, Alta., is pulsating with enthusiasm.
It was already an incredible feather in the cap of the village of just over
775 people to have two native Warburgers – Lindy Ruff and Dave Hakstol –
among the NHL head coaching ranks at the same time.
But now the two men have united to help steer Canada’s National Men’s Team
at the 2019 IIHF World Championship.
“To have them on the same coaching staff is out of this world,” says
Lindy’s father Leeston Ruff, a longtime Warburg resident. “Lots of times
bigger centres like Leduc or Edmonton don’t have two [residents] on the
same staff. Everyone in town so excited and proud.”
Hakstol, 50, and Ruff, 59, are basking in this experience of working
together on the bench, and bonding over their shared hometown away from the
“Things come back to you such as the arena, the curling rink and the
different things that make up the personality of our town,” says Hakstol.
“We have had some good laughs about the memories we made there. It’s been
While the two coaches have recently established a relationship, their
parents have been friends for decades.
Farming is a tie that binds the Ruff and Hakstol families together: Leeston
would sometimes help Ed – who passed away in 2005 – and Theresa at harvest
time, and Leeston and Ed once took a road trip together to attend a farming
Theresa says the farming lifestyle taught him lessons that have helped her
son as a coach to this day.
“He learned teamwork when he was very young. All of us – him, his dad,
brother, sister and me – worked together as a team to get work done from
silaging and working with the cattle.”
Leeston is sure the two of them have conversed how farming taught them the
value of hard work.
“I am sure they are talking about handling bale, picking roots and picking
rocks. This is where the working hard comes in, and I am sure they are
grateful for that,” says Leeston with a laugh.
Ruff indeed appreciates that being the son of farmers taught him the value
of hard work. He also cherishes Leeston and his mom, Shirley, for ensuring
that he and his three brothers were afforded the time to enjoy playing
baseball and hockey – even if long commutes were required.
“At one point Warburg was too small that there weren’t any hockey teams,”
he says. “My older brother, Randy, played in Leduc and I played in Drayton
Valley. One parent had to drive 35 miles to Leduc, and the other parent had
to drive 35 miles to Drayton Valley. You can imagine the travel just to get
us to practice and games. It says a lot about what they wanted us to
Hockey – of course – unites two families as well in more ways than one.
While the coaches did not really cross paths in Warburg due to the
eight-year age difference between the two, Ruff was on Hakstol’s radar from
a very young age.
“He was a guy that everyone in the community looked up to in terms of
wanting to follow that pathway and become a hockey player,” says Hakstol.
The more immediate hockey connection between the two families was that
Hakstol was a teammate of Ruff’s younger brother Brent, who passed away in
the Swift Current Broncos bus crash in 1986. The coaches discussed playing
the game, Leeston driving them both to tournaments and school and Hakstol
and Brent Ruff playing the game in the local Warburg Arena.
Ruff and his family played a central role in the establishment of the
Warburg Arena in the early 1970s. Before that, he had played pretty much
exclusively on outdoor rinks in Warburg, and in neighbouring communities
like Winfield and Breton.
“To raise the money for the roof over the rink in Warburg, we walked in a
lot of walkathons. In the summer we would walk over 20 miles, and we would
have people sponsoring each of us 10 cents a mile.”
He visits the arena sometimes when he comes home to Warburg. He also likes
to visit the curling rink in town as well; several years ago, he booked the
rink so that he and the other members of the Dallas Stars coaching staff
could have a fun little bonspiel.
Hakstol has not had the chance to share the Warburg experience with any of
his hockey colleagues yet, but he says he treasures every chance he gets to
“At the end of the day, the best thing about going home is that you are who
you were when you grew up.”
The road to the finish line at the IIHF World Championship is still nearly
two weeks away, but if Canada does win the gold medal, Ruff says he could
envision him and Hakstol bringing the trophy to Warburg together for a
“That would be amazing,” says Theresa excitedly.