When the Golden Rockets were founded in 1991, the first thing they needed was a head coach. Don Steinhauer, having coached minor hockey for several years prior, had earned his level three coaching certification through Hockey Canada. At the time, level three was the minimum requirement for coaching junior hockey, leaving Steinhauer as the natural candidate to lead the Rockets into their first season.
“I had to go start doing some scouting and recruiting…which I didn’t know anything about,” Steinhauer recalled.
Sixty-five kids attended the Rockets’ first tryout camp that year and that led to what Steinhauer calls the most difficult part of his time as head coach.
“The hardest thing there is to do is cut a kid because you’re killing a dream. A kid comes here and wants to take that next step and then to have to tell him that he’s not going to make it, it is a tough thing to do.”
There were six local boys on the inaugural edition of the Rockets, many of whom Steinhauer had coached at previous levels, and the Golden team achieved a measure of success in their first season, finishing third in their division before falling in a deciding game 7 against the Columbia Valley Rockies in round one of the playoffs.
“The arena was packed, we had great support from the fans,” Steinhauer said.
Steinhauer was relieved of his duties the following season.
“As things go in junior hockey,” he chuckled.
While his tenure was brief, he says he “was proud to be a part of it.”
Coaching was always a joy for Steinhauer, a Foresburg, Alta. native who moved to Golden in 1968 and started working at the mill in 1970, where he spent the majority of his career.
“(I enjoyed) being with the kids, playing the game that you love and teaching kids…it’s all about teaching life skills as well. How to get along, how to accept disappointment, how to be a good winner…we had a lot of fun,” he said.
Having never had kids of his own, Steinhauer was able to coach his teams without any hint of personal bias as well, which isn’t always the case when parents take on a coaching role with teams that include their own son or daughter.
His coaching career came full circle in 2012 when Steinhauer and a team of Golden hockey players went on a trip to Europe to play against local teams overseas.
“I was the oldest guy on the team and Chance L’Heureux was the youngest guy on the team. I coached him when he was in PeeWee so that was kind of neat,” Steinhauer said.
Nowadays, when Steinhauer isn’t skiing, golfing, fishing or riding his motorcycle, he can often be found at the Golden Arena, where he makes a point to attend several Rockets games every season.
“I enjoy the fast pace of the game, the kids play a good brand of hockey…a lot of these kids have been going to hockey schools most of their life. It’s amazing skills that these kids have got,” he said.