2021 wjc byram dyck feature masked

A bond beyond hockey

From U15 AAA to the Western Hockey League and now the World Juniors, Bowen Byram and Michael Dyck have helped each other along a journey few coaches and players have taken together

Jason La Rose
December 26, 2020

For Michael Dyck, it was an opportunity to be a part of the final years of his son’s minor hockey career.

For Bowen Byram, it was a chance to play the game at the highest level and up his WHL draft stock.

Six years later, it’s a partnership that continues to pay dividends both ways.

The coach and the defenceman are sharing a dressing room once again at the 2021 IIHF World Junior Championship, Dyck as an assistant with Canada’s National Junior Team and Byram one of six returnees hoping to help Canada defend the gold medal it won a year ago in the Czech Republic.

Their paths have been intertwined since the fall of 2014, when Dyck took over as head coach of the Lethbridge Golden Hawks U15 AAA program – which included his son, Carson – and Byram made the 300-kilometre move from his hometown of Cranbrook, B.C., to take a spot on the blueline.

“Cranbrook didn't have a [U15] AAA program, so me and my family moved to Lethbridge for the hockey season,” Byram says. “It was the closest city to us [with a AAA program], and we had a previous relationship with Mike. He was my spring hockey coach for a couple of years.”

Dyck brought a Major Junior mentality to the Golden Hawks, having spent 12 seasons in the Western Hockey League, along with two stints as head coach of Team Pacific at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge.

That was exactly what Byram needed to flourish. He exploded in his second season in Lethbridge, posting 59 points in 34 games, earning North Division Top Defenceman honours and captaining the Golden Hawks to an Alberta Major Bantam Hockey League title and a bronze medal at the Western Canadian Bantam Championship.

“We knew he was going to be an elite player for his age. Those two years … he was one of the best players in the league as a first year and dominated as a second-year guy,” Dyck says. “He has just continually improved and taken his game to another level.”

Byram was selected third overall in the 2016 WHL Bantam Draft by the Vancouver Giants (the top two picks were Peyton Krebs and Kirby Dach, who joined Byram on Team Canada) and made the move out west to spend the 2016-17 season with the Yale Hockey Academy in Abbotsford, B.C.

He cracked the Giants’ line-up in the fall of 2017 and was joined in Vancouver a year later by Dyck, who was fresh off leading the Lethbridge Hurricanes to a bronze medal at the 2018 TELUS Cup, Canada’s National U18 Club Championship.

The success they found individually and as a team in Lethbridge followed them to the West Coast; the Giants made a run to Game 7 of the WHL final in 2019 (with Byram leading the playoffs in scoring), and the rearguard was named to the WHL Western Conference First All-Star Team in 2018-19 before earning second-team honours in 2019-20.

He also broke out internationally, helping Canada Red to a silver medal at the 2017 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge with an all-star performance before winning gold at the 2018 Hlinka Gretzky Cup in Edmonton and at the 2020 World Juniors.

Oh, and let’s not forget he was the No. 3 pick of the 2019 NHL Draft by the Colorado Avalanche.

Through Byram’s development, from a 13-year-old in Lethbridge to a 19-year-old with National Hockey League aspirations, Dyck has been the one constant, a friend and confidant with whom Byram has built a relationship beyond the arena.

“He has been a huge influence on my life, not only in hockey but also as a person,” Byram says. “He's an intense guy but a lot of fun to be around away from the rink, and he definitely knows what he's talking about when it gets down to business. I’m very lucky to have him in my life.”

For his part, Dyck is quick to put the spotlight right back where it came from.

“I take a lot of pride in Bow’s development,” Dyck says. “I look back to the first year I coached him in Vancouver, and the amount of pressure that was on him. Then the following year after being drafted, he had a tough first half. But he did a really good job getting refocused and getting himself ready for the World Juniors, and then he just took off in the second half. He has been able to handle a lot of the pressures that go along with being an elite player and it's going to set him up for his career at the next level.”

That next level could come sooner than later. With the NHL set to drop the puck its regular season on Jan. 13, just eight days after the World Juniors wrap up, it’s expected Byram will get a long look with the Avalanche.

First, though, comes the quest for gold in Edmonton, and since it may be the final time Dyck and Byram will share a bench, the coach is allowing himself a quick skate down memory lane.

“It’s been quite a journey,” Dyck says. “Sitting here thinking back, it brings back a lot of memories. It doesn't seem like it was that long ago; it’s crazy how time has passed. We had success in Vancouver, we had success at the minor hockey level and we're certainly going to push for success [at the World Juniors]. It’s a pretty special opportunity.”

For more information:

Esther Madziya
Manager, Communications
Hockey Canada

(403) 284-6484 

Spencer Sharkey
Manager, Communications
Hockey Canada

(403) 777-4567

Jeremy Knight
Manager, Corporate Communications
Hockey Canada

(647) 251-9738

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