Ken Munro got his first chance to be a head coach back in 1996 when he was the bench boss for the U18 Tier 2 Swan Valey Stampeders and 25 years later, Munro is still coaching the game he loves. His coaching journey has included some twists and turns along the way, but the Swan River native said he wouldn't change a thing.
Munro became the coach of the team in 1996 when his nephew moved down from Lynn Lake and when the U15 team was already full, he joined the U18 team and as a result, he was coached by his uncle.
"It was a fun year with a lot of learning," said Munro. "Going from being an assistant coach to a head coach is different, but I enjoyed the change."
As we fast forward to 1999, the Swan Valley Stampeders were set to enter the Manitoba Junior Hockey League as the league's newest team. Playing out of the Swan River Centennial Arena, Munro remembers how much excitement there was in town when the team entered the league and Ken was given the chance to be upfront and centre.
Just a couple of years removed from his first season as a head coach, Ken joined the Stampeders as an assistant coach. The team ended up winning 31 games in their inaugural season which finished them in ninth place. Ken compares the atmosphere in the team's first season to when they advanced to the league final in the 2018-19 season.
"It was such an exciting year for everyone in the organization and around the community," stated Munro. "I joined a great coaching staff and that gave me a great opportunity to learn from veterans."
On September 1st, 1999, Ken's oldest son, Quinn was born at the hospital in Swan River. And to say the Munro's are all Stampeders would be an understatement. During the team's first rookie camp, Quinn Henry scored the first goal and Ken said to his wife that the first person that scores a goal, we'll name our kid after. The rest is clearly history and 18 years after he was born, Quinn suited up in three games with the Stampeders and he's also a former Parkland Ranger.
Munro says some of the most exciting times with the Stampeders came when they travelled to play the OCN Blizzard at the Gordon Lathlin. OCN won five straight league championships from 1999 to 2003.
"The chants you would hear on the ice when sitting in the dressing room, there was honestly nothing like it," offered Munro. "Although we were a new team, we had a great rivalry with them. We were packing our rink and they were packing their rink, it was great to be a part of."
Father, son dominance:
15 years after he joined the Stampeders coaching staff, Ken was the main piece in putting together the Parkland U18 AA Rangers for the 2014-15 season.
The team struggled heavily at the start of the year but by the end of the season, they were champions. Before playing in provincials, they were beating teams that previously beat them by 10 goals early in the year. The team was then invited to the provincials -- which was a surprise -- and they made their invitation count as they beat The Pas, 3-2 to win the provincials. Quinn was the team's starting goaltender for the season.
"It was kind of unexpected, we didn't even think Hockey Manitoba would put us in the provincials because we were a regional team," offered Munro. "We had a good team and we made a good run, it was a blast."
That was the team's only season as high school hockey took over in Swan River.
Although Quinn is now done playing competitive hockey, you can still find Ken at the rink nearly every day in the winter. His younger son, Will plays with the Parkland U18 Rangers and Ken was a part of the coaching staff alongside Tom White when WIll played with the U15 Rangers.
Will -- a draft pick of the Kelowna Rockets -- scored once and added two assists in seven games this season with Parkland before the campaign was cancelled due to restrictions put in place by the government. Munro was also auto-protected by his hometown Stampeders ahead of the 2020 MJHL draft.
Combined with his days as an assistant coach prior to 1996, Ken has been coaching for more than 25 years and he says there is no end in sight as he continues to love doing what he does on the ice with athletes in the Parkland.