by: NICOLA MACLEOD
February 19, 2014
Text Only, for full multimedia piece see The New Brunswick Beacon original post
While most Canadians are cheering for Canada in the Sochi 2014 men’s hockey tournament, one Fredericton family is routing for Latvia.
The Coolens are cheering for Latvia because their father, long time hockey coach Tom Coolen, is assistant coach for the men’s national ice hockey team.
Yesterday, after scoring two goals in the first period and one goal in the last minute of the third, Coolen’s team beat Switzerland 3-1 to secure a place in the quarterfinals of the tournament. Their first match up… Canada.
“I’m exhausted after watching that [game]. My heart was pounding the entire time,” said Tom’s son, Patrick Coolen.
It was Latvia’s first win at the 2014 Olympics.
“It was one of those games where you never know what’s going to happen,” said daughter Lillie Coolen.
Latvia has already played Switzerland earlier in the preliminaries and lost when the Swiss scored a goal in the last seven seconds.
The Coolens say they are excited to watch their dad play Team Canada.
“Obviously, Team Canada, they’re the dynamite of the Olympic hockey world,” said Lillie. “It’s very exciting yet nerve racking at the same time.”
It is the first time Latvia and Canada have met in the Olympic men’s hockey tournament since 1936 when Canada beat Latvia 11-0.
“Little Latvia is going to play the big ol’ Canada,” said Lillie.
Tom first got into coaching hockey when he was assistant coach at the University of New Brunswick from 1982 to 1984. From there he went on to coach several different teams in various leagues. He is most well known for his time as head coach at Acadia University from 1987 to 1995 where he won the Atlantic Universities Athletic Association’s Coach of the Year award in the season of 1994-1995.
Coolen also coached the Saint John Flames in the American Hockey League and the Moncton Wildcats in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. After this, Tom started travelling overseas to do more coaching. He has coached in Italy, Switzerland, Austria, Germany, Denmark, Finland and now in Latvia.
He has degrees in Physical Education and Education and masters degrees in Education and Sports Administration.
Tom is a coaching agent who helps get other coaches jobs. He helped fellow Canadian coach Ted Nolan get the job of head coach of Latvia. After Coolen got him the job, Nolan insisted he come on board the coaching staff as well.
Tom coached St. Thomas University’s men’s volleyball team in 2011-2012. He was asked to step in and help rebuild the program by good friend and Athletic Director, Mike Eagles the year after the team was cut due to the accidental death of a player at a party.
The volleyball team Tom coached went on to win the Atlantic Collegiate Athletic Association championship and went on to compete at nationals.
“Ted was like, ‘I’m only going to do it if you do it with me, and it seems like they’ve been doing a pretty good job so far,” said Patrick, who played on the winning volleyball team his dad coached.
Latvia, a former Soviet Union country bordering Lithuania, Estonia and Belarus, beat out France last February to qualify for Sochi.
“I didn’t know it was a country until Dad went there,” said Lillie.
Latvia went into the Olympics in 11th place and beat Switzerland, who was in 6th.
There are no New Brunswick athletes at the 2014 Winter Games, so Tom is New Brunswick’s only representative.
“I don’t think he felt very good going into today’s game, to be honest,” said Lillie.
“Their goal was to make it to the quarter finals,” added Patrick. “So if they loose, they did what they set out to do. I feel like they’ll be happy with that.”
Tom is returning to New Brunswick early Saturday morning with $2000 worth of Olympic swag in tow. One of his first stops will be at Crabbe Mountain, where he owns a chalet with his family.
Coolen and his Latvian team will face off against Canada at 1 p.m. today.
“I’m cheering for Latvia,” said Lillie.