Henry Acres has forged an interesting career in hockey that started in Parksville and brought him all the way to Europe, where he now shares his knowledge and expertise in the sport.
The graduate of Ballenas Secondary is living a dream as he was just hired to be the head coach of the Narvik Arctic Eagles, a professional hockey team playing in the top league in Norway.
The 44-year-old, currently visiting his mother Betty Ann Acres in Qualicum Beach, has been residing in Sweden since 2003. He has made a successful transition from player to coach. He patiently worked through a myriad of coaching opportunities with various clubs in Europe and his commitment and dedication have finally rewarded him the dream job he’s always sought.
“I paid my dues in that respect as I have worked for many years as an assistant coach,” said Acres. “This is going to be my first year as head coach at a professional level.”
Acres was a former Parksville Generals defenceman in the early 1990s. He had stints with the Nanaimo Clippers and Victoria Salsa in the B.C. Hockey League. Following that, Acres attended and played hockey for Mount Royal College. Once his college days were over, Acres ventured to the United States but that stint only lasted a year.
“I knew I wasn’t interested to continuing in the U.S. because I wasn’t the biggest guy,” Acres recalled.
Acres went to play in Australia for a couple of months and while being there he received an opportunity to play in Sweden. He went and fell in love with the place. He retired from playing at the end of 2010-11. Hockey got him there, Acres said but it was his wife Christina who made him stay in Europe. The couple has two children.
“I really liked the style and the level of hockey,” said Acres. “It was good and the lifestyle fit me. And of course I met a beautiful blonde woman. And that’s the end of the story right there. It’s a pretty common story for most North Americans that I’ve met there. There’s a woman involved.”
Acres said he developed his own coaching style by combining the North American and European styles of hockey. He now looks forward to applying his concepts and ideas.
“I have worked in many different countries and have different experiences,” said Acres. “I try to take the best out of those things and make it work. I don’t know if you’ll ever be ready. I learned a lot and I picked good and bad from everybody that I have been fortunate enough to work with. So I am excited for this challenge. When you’re with a new club in a new level, it’s a big step for not only on the ice things but also the off the ice things and the organization.”
Acres used to come home each year to ran Acres Hockey Training Camp in Parksville Qualicum Beach in late July. But as his coaching career developed in Europe, Acres said it became tougher to organize it and he was not able to commit to the camp any longer. He ran it from 2003 to 2012.
The game of hockey, Acres said, has provided him with plenty of opportunity and he is extremely grateful. He said the camp was one way of giving back to the community.
“It’s something I would like to come back to and start up again in this region,” said Acres. “We’ll see when that time comes.”