Mitch Love will be taking on his first Head Coaching role in the WHL with the Saskatoon Blades in the upcoming 2018-19 season. Born in Quesnel, British Columbia, the 33-year-old is no stranger to the Saskatchewan prairies.
Love got his first taste of the Western Hockey League when he debuted at the ripe age of 15 back in 1999 with the Moose Jaw Warriors. It was only for two games, but the ornery blue-liner returned for his 16-year-old rookie season to make a name for himself. He appeared in 51 games that season scoring 5 goals, 4 assists, and coming up just shy of the century mark in penalty minutes with 97.
The next season, Love was shipped down the road to Swift Current where he again scored 5 goals, nearly doubled his point total with 17, and collected 172 penalty minutes. The Broncos won 42 games that season and lost out in the second round of the playoffs.
At the age of 18 in his third year in the WHL, Love remained consistent in his point total once again finishing with 17. However, he did lead the league in one category; 327 penalty minutes were amassed in just 70 games. This time around Love and his Broncos saw a much quicker exit in the post-season in just four games, but the gritty defender did manage to score his first career playoff goal.
Ahead of the 2003-04 season, Love was plucked by the WHL’s newest expansion franchise; the Everett Silvertips. Unbeknownst to Love, Everett would be where he would make his name both as a player and a coach. Similar to what the Vegas Golden Knights are currently doing, the Everett Silvertips inaugural season was something out of a fairytale book and Mitch Love was one of the story’s protagonists.
Love arrived in Everett looking to add some grit, leadership, and experience as an alternate captain with the Silvertips, and ended up becoming a top-pairing d-man who scored 12 goals and 15 assists that season to lead his club in scoring from the back end. His charisma on the ice quickly earned him celebrity status with his new club and city, leading the expansion franchise to a U.S. Division title in the regular season. And they kept going in the playoffs; sweeping Spokane in the first round, knocking off the Vancouver Giants in six games in the second round, and then coming back from a 3-1 deficit to defeat the WHL’s regular season champions, the Kelowna Rockets, in game 7 of the Western Conference Final. Any guess who scored the game winning goal in game one of the series? Love.
Of course, the Medicine Hat Tigers would go on to win the Ed Chynoweth Cup that year in four straight games, but the playoff run and Love’s heroics cemented his legacy among the new fanbase north of Seattle.
The following year Love finished off his junior career as the Silvertips captain while adding another 29 points to his career total of 99. He suited up for 59 games helping him surpass the 300 games played mark to close out his junior career with a stat line of 320GP-33G-66A-99PTS-901PIM. Yes, you read that correctly, over 900 penalty minutes. Don’t be fooled by the last name.
Next up for Love were the pro ranks. Over the course of the next six seasons he would make stops in Lowell, Albany, Lake Erie, Houston, and Peoria in the American Hockey League. Another 278 games, 808 penalty minutes, and a double hip surgery meant Love’s playing days were beginning to wind down.
In the summer of 2011, Love returned to Everett as he was hired as an Assistant Coach and Strength & Conditioning Coach. Obviously, fans in Everett were happy to have Love back in the building in any capacity. The first couple seasons behind the bench weren’t exactly banner years for the Silvertips but they still managed to make the playoffs every season. Over the next seven seasons as an Assistant Coach, Love would help Everett to three U.S. Division titles, and a trip back to the WHL final series this past season. It’s only the second time the Silvertips have been to the finals, and Mitch Love has been there for both of them; one as a player and one as a coach.
There’s no doubt Mitch Love will be missed in Everett. Heck, even the American fans belt out his last name during ‘O Canada’ when Canadian teams are the visiting opponents. And strangely enough, true and patriot are kind of fitting. Love has been recognized by Hockey Canada and has earned opportunities to ply his trade on the international stage. He’s served as an Assistant Coach for Team Canada at the World U-17 Challenge twice; winning gold with Team Canada White in 2015.
Now comes the next chapter for the young father of one, as the Blades’ new bench boss will look to begin a new love affair in Saskatoon.