No athlete can play forever. But when a career ends, some call it quits to the sport as a whole, or others go into broadcasting, specifically play-by-play or color commentary.
Others such as Dan Bremner and Michael Harris, however, have gone from players to coaches.
The Bobcats' two newest graduate assistant coaches have seven years of professional on-ice experience between the two of them. They’re now faced with taking their knowledge of the game from a player’s perspective and translating it to a coach’s.
The on-ice journey for the pair of graduate assistant coaches ended after the 2016-17 season. Bremner, a native of Sarnia, Ontario, played his last professional hockey season with the Peoria Rivermen — a team in the Southern Professional Hockey League. Bremner spent his time of six years as a professional hockey player only to realize that one day it’ll be over and that he needed a plan to stick with the game.
“I knew that I wanted last year to be my last season of professional hockey,” Bremner said.
As the door on his professional playing career was coming to a close, his coaching door opened and in his last season as a Riverman, Bremner took on the role of a player-coach. With the role came a heightened preparation for the season and games alike.
Unlike his counterpart, Harris, who played just one season of professional hockey, his calling was to come back to where it all started.
From the 2012-13 season through the 2015-16 year, Harris played forward for Ohio and achieved several records in his career that included: leading scorer in goals and points for a season and rookie of the year, and he was a team captain his senior year.
With such notoriety throughout the walls of Bird Arena, Harris acknowledges that this is a new facet in his hockey career.
“As a player, you just had to show up,” Harris said. “But as a coach, you have to prepare everything and make sure that (the players are) ready to do want we want them to do and how we want them to do it.”
Harris in his time at Ohio as a player adds an extra layer of relatability to this year’s team because he knows that what the team is going through, and he’s done it too.
With his already-established relationship with coach Sean Hogan, the realm of coaching was dusted over in conversation in Harris’s final moments at Ohio, and after one “emotional” year, Harris headed back home to reunite with his old coach.
“We talked about me coming back,” Harris said. “You can’t play anymore so the next logical step is coaching.”
To Hogan, the assistants are just as important as the head, maybe even more so to an extent.
“I take real pride into who we hire as GA’s,” Hogan said. “We take pride into developing them into coaches and their development in managing people.”
Bremner and Harris were faced with a tall order in their first season as coaches. They had to guide a team that lost 10 seniors the year before and came up short in the American Collegiate Hockey Association championship.
Despite the odds, through the halfway mark of the season, Ohio is ranked No. 4 in the country with a 14-3-1 record.
As the assistant coaching duo of Bremner and Harris pursue their future careers, along with earning their master's degrees in Sports Science and Recreation, which Harris jokes makes them masters of science, the process of becoming the coaches they want to be has begun, and it’s one they don’t regret.
Correction: A previous version of the photo caption misidentified the two graduate assistant coaches. The caption has been updated to reflect the most accurate information.