Dave Chyzowski has hockey in his DNA.
The Merritt Centennials are about to find out if coaching is in his genetics.
"I've talked to all the kids who were on the team [last season]," said Chyzowski, who was hired last month as head coach and GM of the junior A club. "It wasn't fun going to the rink. I've been on teams like that.
"My biggest goal is to get them to love playing hockey again."
Chyzowski, who turned 50 on Sunday, was the second overall pick in the 1989 NHL Draft, thanks in large part to a 104-point season with the Kamloops Blazers in 1988-1989.
He helped Canada to gold at the 1990 World Junior Hockey Championship and enjoyed an 18-year pro career that included 128 NHL games and stints in Europe.
In 2006, Chyzowski's hockey career changed form when joined the Blazers' marketing team.
His eldest son, Nick, toiled for the Blazers for five seasons and captained the team during his graduating campaign in 2017-2018. His youngest son, Ryan, played five years for the Medicine Hat Tigers and was captain in his graduating season in 2020-2021.
"As a hockey player, you miss a lot of stuff with your kids growing up," Chyzowski said. "I didn't get to watch my kids play hockey and do the first things — walk and school plays, like normal parents do.
"When I got to watch him [Nick] play for the Blazers for five years, I loved it. It was almost like I got to make up for lost time. When he left, I had this empty feeling coming into the rink every day and not being able to see him.
"As goofy as it sounds, it was really hard and I felt like I was missing out on giving kids a chance to learn something based on all my experience playing hockey and having different coaches."
Chyzowski had stops with Delta Hockey Academy, as head coach of the under-18 girls' prep team, and with the Vancouver Giants, as an assistant coach with the WHL team.
"Unfortunately, everything came to a shut down when this rancid pandemic came and brought everything to a halt," Chyzowski said.
He kept his wheels rolling by joining Kamloops Ford Lincoln in a sales position, but the coaching bug itched away and Chyzowski jumped at the opportunity to apply for the opening in Merritt.
"I'm a big believer in how you can push different buttons," Chyzowski said. "Some kids need a pat on the back and some kids need a kick in the ass.
"I have a pretty good ability to be able to notice what's needed at certain times."
The Centennials could use spurring.
Merritt won three of 20 games to place last in the B.C. Hockey League in 2020-2021, a pod season that was ravaged by COVID-19 complications and saw the Centennials play all of their games in Chilliwack.
The Centennials were also cellar dwellers in 2019-2020, posting a 14-40-1-3 mark to miss the playoffs in a campaign that was eventually pre-empted by the pandemic.
Chyzowski succeeds head coach/GM Derek Sweet-Coulter, whose contract was not renewed after the pod season.
"There will be [roster] changes and not to anybody's wrongdoings," said Chyzowski, who is navigating a learning curve on the management side.
"My biggest thing is they were a young hockey club last year. I really want to bring in a mixture of some heavy defencemen that are hard to play against and give the young, smaller forwards the ability and courage to play to their potential — and I want to make sure our rink is the hardest building to play in in the league."
Centennials' director of hockey operations John Stuart said the club received more than 40 applications for the job.
"His [Chyzowski's] knowledge and experiences in hockey, his knowledge of how to deal with teenage boys on pursuing their dream is something we truly value as an organization," Stuart said in a press release.
Chyzowski was asked about his coaching goals.
"I'm not looking at anything long-term other than trying to help Merritt build back up and be a professional, classy, well-respected organization again," Chyzowski said.
"I don't have any aspirations right now of going to coach at different levels. Maybe that will happen one day. I don't know. But I love the idea of helping kids develop and achieve goals scholastically and from an athletic standpoint.
"It's like watching your own kids have success in their lives."