Jim Hiller took home Western Hockey League’s Dunc McCallum Memorial Trophy for coach of the year at a Wednesday afternoon banquet in Calgary.
The former Nelson resident and Nelson Minor Hockey graduate guided the Tri City Americans to first place in the Western Conference during the regular season. Last week the Americans were upset in the league’s semi-finals by the Portland Winterhawks.
Hiller grew up in Nelson where he played minor hockey until he was in midget. He moved away in 1987 to play in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League with the Melville Millionaires.
From there he went to play college hockey with Northern Michigan University where he won an NCAA championship in 1991. During the championship season Hiller lead the Wildcats in scoring with 86 points while playing on a Kootenay line that included Dallas Drake (Rossland) and Scott Beattie (Kimberley). Nelson’s Morey Gare was also one of the assistant coaches on that team.
Hiller was drafted in the 10th round of the 1989 NHL draft by the Los Angeles Kings.
He eventually played 63 NHL games with the Kings, Detroit Red Wings and New York Rangers, but it was in Europe where he found most of his professional success. Hiller played six seasons in Germany and Italy in the late-1990s, winning an Italian Championship with HC Milano in 2002.
Hiller jumped from pro hockey right into coaching upon his return to Canada in 2002.
He was the assistant coach for Tri City for two seasons before moving onto a head coach role with the Alberni Valley Bulldogs of the BCHL in 2005-06 where he earned coach of the year honours.
In 2006 Hiller returned to major junior with the Chilliwack Bruins where he coached for three seasons.
In the 2009-10 season Hiller returned to Tri City as the head coach. In his first season he guided the Americans to the WHL championship where they lost in five games to the Calgary Hitmen.
Hiller was up against the Regina Pats’ Pat Conacher for coach of the year honours. Conacher coached Nelson’s Dryden Hunt this past season.