BOISE — Everett Sheen is quite the angler.
He hooked a 24-inch brown trout fly fishing on the Owyhee River last summer. But his true passion lies on a 200-by-85-foot sheet of ice.
That was evident upon being named the new and eighth Idaho Steelheads coach in history Thursday afternoon.
The ex-Steelheads assistant coach of three years replaces Neil Graham, who was promoted to the organization’s American Hockey League affiliate, the Texas Stars on Sunday. Graham went 166-91-31 in four seasons. It’s something Sheen looks to build upon.
“I plan on continuing the rich tradition and success that they’ve had here in Idaho,” Sheen told the Idaho Press. “We will look to play the same brand of hockey while being hardworking, hard hitting, fast and dynamic. So it’s going to be a lot of the same with a few little tweaks here and there. But mostly, just expect me to give my all every single day and make this city proud.”
Sheen, 32, is the second youngest coach in program history, second only to Graham, who was 30 when he was hired in 2015. Sheen is the second-youngest active coach in the ECHL as well.
Idaho didn’t wait long to make that happen either. Steelheads President Eric Trapp said they had “a lot” of candidates, but only interviewed one. Sheen interviewed Tuesday and was offered his first head coaching job the very next day.
“We didn’t just give him the job. He had a big binder full of things and immediately wowed us,” Trapp said. “He just really assimilated himself into the culture that we’ve built here. So that’s what we’re excited about is that we’ve got somebody in place that knows what the Steelheads are about and how to continue it on and hopefully takes us to that next level as well.”
Sheen’s effect on the defense was probably also a factor. The Lethbridge, Alberta, native oversaw a defense and a penalty kill unit that were both ranked in the top-10 last season. It was a bit of a surprising result considering Sheen was a forward back in his day.
“I got lucky with some good defensemen,” Sheen said while laughing. “But I always kind of understood the (defensive) zone and just really preached the fundamentals. I had some really receptive defensemen who were willing to learn and work and just watch a lot of video and listen to my philosophies.”
Sheen has been involved with hockey from the time he could walk. He started four seasons with Division I Holy Cross, making the All-Rookie team as a freshman. Sheen was the team captain his junior and senior years before going undrafted in the NHL Draft.
He still played professionally for five seasons, mostly in the ECHL. Sheen played in 319 games with the Reading Royals, the Ontario Reign and the Colorado Eagles. He played against the Steelheads 49 times with some of his best games coming against them.
“I always loved playing against the Steelheads because I put up some points for whatever reason,” Sheen said. “Honestly, I think it was because I loved coming here. Even as a visitor, I always admired the organization. I was constantly trying to put on a show so I could maybe come play here.”
He also saw time in the AHL with the Providence Bruins and the Edinburgh Capitals of the Elite Ice Hockey League in England before retiring in 2016 with 49 goals and 141 points. Sheen traded in his skates for a suit and tie after Graham hired him as his assistant coach on September 1, 2016.
Sheen and Graham go back. They were teammates with the Crowsnest Pass Timberwolves and the Okotoks Oilers in the Alberta Junior Hockey League. The two also went head-to-head in college as part of the same Atlantic Hockey Association. Graham skated for rival Mercyhurst College. While Sheen wouldn’t say who the better player was, he did admit to learning a lot under Graham.
“When you go from a player to a coach, there are a lot of learning curves and Neil was really able to help me bridge that gap,” Sheen said. “He helped me take some huge strides, especially after my first year and gave me all the valuable experience that I have now.”
Sheen inherits one of the ECHL’s premier franchises. The Steelheads have won two Kelly Cups (2004 and 2007) and have never missed the playoffs since their inaugural season in 1997. Idaho has made the playoffs 22 consecutive seasons. The Steelheads are tied with the San Antonio Spurs of the NBA for the longest active playoff streak in any North American sports league.
But Sheen, who lives in Meridian with his wife Kayla and two-month-old son, Parker, has been challenged before. He reeled in a 180-pound tuna on his honeymoon in Hawaii.
“I’m ready to get after it and ready to get going,” Sheen said. “It’s a huge testament to myself that management saw fit to appoint me to lead this storied franchise and I’m very honored to be a part of it.”