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Homecoming Showdown: Curt Malawsky Faces Former Team, Calgary Roughnecks in High-Stakes Battle

Seeing old friends is usually a celebratory occasion, and to Warriors’ Head Coach, Curt Malawsky, there’s no better way to welcome his friends to Vancouver than playing a hard-fought game on the floor. 

As the Calgary Roughnecks ride into town on Saturday, Malawsky will be on the opposing bench of the Riggers for the first time in 13 years as a coach and 16 years since he first joined the organization as a player.  

In true Malawsky fashion, he’s focused on preparing for the game and what his team needs to do to be successful. He’s looking forward to seeing familiar faces but from the opening faceoff, the 60 minutes following that are strictly business.  

“Obviously the focus is going to be on our team, but those are a lot of my great, great friends and winning a championship together we have bonds that are going to last a lifetime,” Malawsky expressed. “To say it’s just another game would be lying to you – they’re in my heart and I love those guys over there. That being said, I’ve always taught my young kids that the best way to honour your friends or your ex-teammates is to play as hard as you can against them. I’ll be looking to coach as hard as I can and give our team the best chance to win.” 

Week 6 of the NLL season was a bye for the Warriors, and the coaching staff has been using the extra time to work on the game plan for the matchup and helping the players fine-tune their games.  

Vancouver’s defensive core has been a steady presence through the Warriors’ first four games and Malawsky is looking for more consistency from the offensive group and wants to keep improving their possessions from faceoffs.  

The Warriors led the way to start both of their games against the Rochester Knighthawks and Colorado Mammoth, but narrowly lost both and Malawsky said those losses were learning opportunities for his team. 

“I attribute that straight to fitness so the two-week break couldn’t have come at a better time. We worked on our fitness and cleaning some of that stuff up,” Malawsky said, going on to note, “Our faceoffs have to be better, possessions off the draw are important and we’re getting a lot of three or four-goal runs that have iced the game against and it’s happening in key moments of the game. If we can focus on the things we can control I think we can have some more success. We’re in every game, it’s not from a lack of effort.” 

Coming up against a Calgary team that’s 1-2 to start the season, it might be hard to find someone who knows the Roughnecks better than Malawsky and his coaching staff. Warriors’ Assistant General Manager and Assistant Coach, Bob McMahon and Assistant Defensive Coach, Rob Williams were both part of Calgary’s coaching staff for their 2019 championship run. Many of the core players from the championship run are still with the Roughnecks. 

“They’re a top 4 team in the NLL in my opinion,” Malawsky said. “They’ve got a very dynamic offence, a world-class goalie and their defence is big, strong, athletic and runs the floor very well. “There’s not a lot of holes in that team, if any, so we’re going to have to focus more on what we’ve got to do to prepare ourselves to be successful. I like to think we understand some of the things they’re going to do, but the new coaching staff does a good job there of changing it up,” he said. 

The Roughnecks boast a coaching lineup enriched with experience and past connections. Roughnecks’ Associate Coach and Player Personnel Coordinator Troy Cordingley and Defensive Coordinator Phil Sanderson were Vancouver’s Head Coach and Offensive Coach respectively last season. 

The two teams know each other well and showing up prepared his one of the keys to his Malawsky’s coaching philosophy. Reflecting on his development as a coach, he mentions Terry Sanderson, Cordingley, Les Wingrove and sports psychologist Dr. David Cox, as people who have made an impact on him. He’s tried to soak up everything he can everywhere he’s been as a player and a coach, a lot of which he learned in Calgary, sharing his knowledge of the game with his new team in Vancouver. 

“I’ve always been a student of the game and I’ve played for some really good coaches,” he said. “I played for Bob McMahon before he came on my bench; Bobby has the biggest influence on my coaching and playing career. I’ve also played with a list of phenomenal players that could go on for days that led me to examine what styles were successful, what championship styles were successful, things that didn’t work and things that did work. Coming up with successful coaching plans is only because I’ve been surrounded by great people.”   

As the Warriors gear up to face the Roughnecks, Malawsky hopes to instill the essence of his coaching philosophy—perseverance, preparedness, and a calm under pressure. The stage is set for a compelling showdown between friends competing in the box. 

Vancouver Warriors