Another GOJHL Alumnus Wins Coaching Gold on the World Stage

First Dennis Williams, now Clarke Singer. Singer may not be as well known and he didn’t coach Canada to World Junior gold in the Maritimes over the Christmas holidays, but he was part of the coaching staff that led our country to gold at the World University Games in Lake Placid, New York on January 22.

The 54-year-old Stratford native has had an incredible coaching career after playing a handful of games for the Stratford Cullitons (Warriors) in the late 1980’s and then one full season with the London Diamonds (Nationals) where he picked up 65 points in 36 games.

Once his junior playing career was over the Diamonds approached him about a new role. “I think I was 19. They named me an assistant captain, had a big role and we had a good team. When I finished, they asked if I would be interested in coming back to join the coaching staff. That was my first introduction into coaching.”

When he first started behind the bench, he had no intention of making coaching a career. “I had it in my mind that I was going to be a physical education and kinesiology teacher. That was my dream growing up, to go to Western then to teacher’s college. It was never in the plans to coach at all. I took some coaching courses at school, grew to love it a little more and then completed my Masters in coaching and worked with the Mustangs (men’s hockey team).”

Singer did eventually make it to teacher’s college and was also the first head coach of the former Aylmer Aces junior team in 1993-94 under the legendary Angie Nigro, but a road trip across the Atlantic Ocean would his next stop. “I thought I’d coach junior for fun and go to teacher’s college to become a teacher. Then what happened is I was going back for my second year in Aylmer. We were growing the team and all of a sudden in July as I was doing teaching interviews for a full-time job, I got a call from this team in Norway saying I was recommended by a coach at Western. I did an interview, got the job, and flew out a few weeks later. It happened quick.”

After three years in Norway Singer came back to London where he landed an assistant’s gig with the Mustangs in 1997. He became head coach in 1999 and is the third winningest coach in Canadian University hockey. Singer has been named OUA coach of the year seven times and CIS coach of the year in 2001-02, the same year he guided the Mustangs to a national championship.

The 54-year-old coached at the World University Games on three previous occasions as bench boss, but he says this year’s tournament was the first time Canada sent a true national team. “Before we went as regions. So, the OUA would put together a team and two years later the EUS (Atlantic Canada) would put together a team and two years later Canada West put together a team. Now U Sports has made the decision to send a team to represent the entire country.”

Canadian university hockey may not have the same high profile as junior leagues, but anyone who has been around the school game knows how good the level of play is. Singer says simply put its great hockey. “Most of the best players at our level are NHL draft picks, major junior captains. I would say the majority of the players on this team will go on to play in the American Hockey League. The hockey is incredible.” He adds one of the keys to Canada winning gold was the depth that other countries just couldn’t match. “We had 12 forwards and seven ‘D’ that could be very much interchangeable. We really wore teams down just like you saw in the American game in the final.” Canada defeated our neighbours to the south by a score of 7-2.

With the tournament over Singer is back in London at the helm of Western and he says the team has some work to do to turn their season around. “We’ve had a challenging year here and we aren’t in a playoff spot with a few games to go. The OUA decided to go to only 60 percent of the teams in the playoffs across all sports so just six teams from our conference make it. We have lost some really close games, six in over time, but we did win four of our last six before the Christmas break but we need to finish strong.”

As for his coaching future, Singer says he’s getting to the tail end of his career. “I’ve been at Western now for 26 years in a row and who knows what’s around the corner.”

The connection between the GOJHL and Singer’s Mustangs is very evident as shown by the number of players and coaches in the lineup this season with ties to the league:

UWO Players

UWO Staff