Petes Alumnus Prepped to Lead Team’s Resurgence
On May 3, 2018, Rob Wilson was announced as the next head coach of the Peterborough Petes. The maroon and white have in many ways been defined by the coaching dynasty that has progressed through the organization, with the work of Scotty Bowman, Dick Todd, Gary Green and Roger Neilson – to name a few – creating this culture of strong leadership. Aware of the legacy that has been carved out by the coaches before him, Wilson is eager stepping into his new role.
“I think its excitement, intimidation no, but its a privilege to work in the same environment [as the coaches before him], its an honour.”
— Cliff Skarstedt Jr (@cliffskarstedt) May 10, 2018
Before winning a J. Ross Robertson Cup with the Petes in 1989, Wilson spent three seasons with the Sudbury Wolves. The defenceman summarized his transition to the Electric City, in junior hockey, as one of ease, aware that the Petes possessed stable management and a winning mentality.
“Dick [Todd] had a lot of respect from the guys. He was a guy we all knew had success and for me coming in he had success, and you believed what he was telling you. I think one of the things with Dick, it was his way and you knew that. You knew that really quick. He was good.”
Assisting Todd on the bench was coach Terry Bovair, whose aura was one that simultaneously contrasted and complimented his colleague, as Wilson explained:
“If Dick was having a day where he was not happy with the guys you could go and get a good feel from [Terry] Bo and I think the two of them worked well together and I think it was a really healthy environment. I think it was breading the success, especially in the 80’s and it was a good place to be, everyone wanted to play in Peterborough.”
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Upon exiting the OHL, Rob pursued professional hockey, bopping between Europe and North America, before embarking on a coaching career. Wilson served as player-coach to the Newcastle Vipers between 2003 and 2009, going on as head coach of the AHC Neumarket Egna Riweg, and later being hired by Rittner Buam of the Italian Serie A, a post he held until 2014.
He landed the position of assistant coach of the Nuremberg Ice Tigers in the DEL in 2014 and was then promoted to head coach during the 2015-16 season, earning the DEL Regular Season Coach of the Year award the following year.
Wilson declares his coaching style as fair but intense, “I think sometimes I can be loud but overall I think I treat guys with a lot of respect. We joke about how much charts and video we do, it’s just the way I am. I’m sure at times it wears on them, but I think the constant repetition helps everybody.”
In regards to adjusting from coaching groups of men to adolescent boys, Wilson notes that he’ll need to be more patient, “Sometimes you might have to give the message once or twice, maybe three times and they get it. But you know with the younger group it’s only natural that you have to give them more instruction for them to understand it. Patience will be a key.” Nonetheless his quest to continuously learn, through reading and discussions with other coaches, will easily work in this development.
Guiding his current coaching model is a piece of advice that was given to him early on in his career, “Be yourself, coach who you are. If you try and sit and think you’re going to fool these guys, you aren’t. When you walk in that dressing room its a different environment. To show who you are and coach who you. Don’t be something you’re not.”
Atop stepping into an opportunity where he can make a serious impact, Rob’s return to the Petes also allows him to be closer to his two daughters who attend school in Peterborough. Wilson’s fiancee Heidi, and son Max, will join Rob in Peterborough before the 2018-19 season kicks off.
Although this offseason has been lengthier than desired for the Petes, the additional time has allowed Rob to develop relationships within the organization and formulate a plan to recreate the spaces vital for the players to learn and train, including the weight room and player lounge area.
Rob steps onto the Petes bench following a season with high expectations that ultimately ended in disappointment. Regardless, Wilson maintains a fearless attitude when it comes to putting Peterborough back on top of the junior hockey world. He demands a lot of himself, will ask a lot of his new players, and is ready to make the Petes a winning team again.