BROOKS, AB (July 19, 2016) – The Brooks Bandits, 2015-16 champions of the Alberta Junior Hockey League (AJHL), have agreed to extend the contract of head coach and general manager Ryan Papaioannou by an additional five seasons subsequent to his existing agreement with the team.
Such an agreement will see Papaioannou remain in his position through to the conclusion of the 2021-2022 AJHL season.
“We are delighted to be securing the services of Coach Papaioannou for the long term,” said Bandits President Paul Seaton. “Over his seven seasons at the helm of this team we have seen outstanding improvements in all elements of our operation from wins and championships to post-secondary opportunities as well as spectator and corporate support, financial security, community relations and beyond.”
“There was no question among our Board of Directors that the organisation is best positioned for the future with the most accomplished and successful coach in all of Canadian Junior ‘A’ hockey continuing to serve as our head coach and general manager,” he added. “With absolute confidence in Ryan’s abilities, we look forward to his ongoing efforts in striving for continued excellence.”
Papaioannou has served as the team’s sixth head coach and general manager since October 16, 2009, and in just under seven full seasons he has amassed a regular season record of 288-88-33 (.744), and a post-season record of 82-38 (.683).
“I have to first thank the entire City of Brooks,” said Papaioannou. “As a community organization there have been many people involved over my last 8 years, from the board of directors, to volunteers, billets or fans; all of them have given me the great opportunity to work and live in this wonderful city. Stability is the key to any program at this level, and our organization is clearly showing its commitment to long term continuity.”
In the last five seasons, the Brooks Bandits, under Papaioannou’s management, have recorded more wins than any other team in the Canadian Junior Hockey League (CJHL). In addition, this past season saw the Bandits, for the first time ever, lead the CJHL in NCAA Division I committed players, with 16. Over the last six seasons, the Bandits roster has featured more than 40 Division I commitments.
“We constantly try to identify areas of our program that we can improve and strive to become better,” Papaioannou added. “We have modified our approach on the ice, in the classroom and in the community over the years, and have a staff that is second to none; I have to thank them and all of our previous staff for their contributions to the organization.”
The team’s dominant recent history has included three league championships, including the franchise’s first RBC Cup national championship in 2012-13, a season in which the Bandits also set still-standing AJHL records for regular season wins (53), fewest losses (4), most points (109), and longest season-opening winning streak (20-0). Papaioannou was named both the AJHL and CJHL Coach of the Year that season as well.
“At any level, you can only go as far as your players will allow, and I also have to give an abundance of credit to all the young men who have played here over the years,” the coach also noted. “There is nothing more rewarding than seeing them achieve goals and move on to higher levels both on the ice and in the classroom. We are fortunate to have worked with great kids that come from great families and we will continue to recruit along those lines.”
This past season, the Bandits became the highest-scoring team in the AJHL in more than a decade, tallying 306 goals in a regular season in which the team went 49-9-2, and a further 12-1 in league playoffs, capturing the team’s third league championship and earning its second-ever berth at the national championship tournament.
Papaioannou’s Bandits are the only Alberta team to win its way to a national championship tournament in the last eight CJHL seasons. The team’s consistent success has also significantly improved the organization’s brand locally, nationally, and internationally, with Bandit players now recruited from across the continent, and a 71 percent increase in average attendance from 817 in Papaioannou’s first season, to a league-leading 1,394 this past year.
“We are lucky to call the Centennial Regional Arena home, which is one of the best Junior facilities in the country, and we couldn’t be more proud of it,” said Papaioannou. “We have a tremendous working relationship with the City of Brooks which allows us to operate every facet of our day to day business right at the CRA.”
His tenure has also seen a marked expansion of the team’s relationship with local business, community groups, and an historic multi-year partnership with Brooks Minor Hockey signed last season.
Papaioannou was originally hired by the Bandits as an assistant coach for the 2008-09 AJHL season, after serving on the coaching staff of the Lethbridge Hurricanes of the Alberta Midget Hockey League (AMHL) the year prior.
“My time with this organization has been fulfilling at the arena but also away from the game,” Papaioannou concluded. “Since my arrival in Brooks I’ve been fortunate enough to get married to a person who really understands the coaching game and we are now blessed to be raising a child in this great community.”
The decision to retain Papaioannou’s services long-term was approved by a unanimous vote of the organization’s Board of Directors.
Season tickets for the Bandits’ league title defence in 2016-17 are on sale now! Reserve your great seat for all 2016-17 games, get the first crack at seats for the 2017 Playoffs, have an exclusive chance at great prizes, and more! More information is available at tickets.brooksbandits.ca.