First Kootenay Ice GM Jeff Chynoweth, well, iced him as coach on Friday. The WHL team learned Knoblauch was interviewing for the University of Alberta Golden Bears coaching vacancy even though no one from the CIS powerhouse ever contacted the Ice for permission to speak to a coach under contract. It also looked like Knoblauch was a betting favourite to land one of the top five coaching positions in all of Canadian Interuniversity Sport, which should explain why someone would leave a WHL team for a more secure university position.
Then over the weekend, Fort McMurray Oil Barons play-by-play man Tyler King reported Alberta had offered the job to another Golden Bears alumnus, Ian Herbers, from the AHL's Milwaukee Admirals, rather than Knoblauch. (The story was of interest in Fort McMurray since Oil Barons coach Gord Thibaudea was reportedly intereste.) The Edmonton Journal ended up reporting a denial that was true, only to end up reporting about 48 hours later that King's report was bang on. What was the source of confusion that left Knoblauch in limbo?
From Global TV Edmonton's Dean Millard:
"I was told [Herbers] didn't interview and couldn't get the job because he didn't interview. So either someone on the selection committee wasn't aware of the whole story or someone on the selection committee was telling different information. One of two things happened." (The Pipeline Show, 10:30 in clip)
That just makes it all the more bizarre. Typically, Canadian Interuniversity Sport isn't like the NCAA; the director of athletics can't just say, "Hire this man." (Or woman, as the case may be; some schools have this strange idea gender equity also applies whom is paid to coaches their female athletes, imagine that. But I digress.) There's always procedures and protocols in place. If Bill Belichick suddenly said to himself, "Self, I need a new challenge and no media scrutiny, I'd like to coach the York Lions," he'd still have to go through the whole rigamorale.
Is Herbers qualified for the job? No doubt. The way it was handled, though, comes off badly. It reads like the fallout from the Knoblauch news leaking out, and the reaction in Kootenay, caused Alberta to go off the board and offer the job to Herbers. There are certainly a lot of unanswered questions. The obvious space on the jump-to-conclusions mat is the one stating that Alberta might have worried that playing poach-a-coach by hiring Knoblauch would hurt its rep in the WHL, its main recruiting pond.
Much of recruiting in CIS is by word of mouth. Players who aren't going on to pro hockey often base their school choice on having former teammates and close friends already there, or a recommendation from their junior coach or GM. Gregg Drinnan reported, "I am told one U of A player has apologized, via email, to [Jeff] Chynoweth for how all this was handled." That plays into the idea that hiring Herbers was about saving some face in WHL circles. But that doesn't help Kris Knoblauch, who just won the WHL championship last season, find a new job.
Neate Sager is a writer for Yahoo! Canada Sports. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @neatebuzzthenet.