By Connor Hood, Golden Bears and Pandas Athletics
1,435 wins. 15 National Championships. 25 Canada West titles. The combined resume of Pandas Hockey head coach Howie Draper and Pandas Volleyball head coach Laurie Eisler is staggering.
You can also add ‘winningest coach in University of Alberta history’ to Eisler’s resume, and ‘winningest coach in university women’s hockey history’ to Drapers.
However, if you ask any of the student-athletes who have come through those two programs over the past 25 years, it’s how those two coaches have shaped their lives that means more than any stat, record, or championship ring.
Draper has led the Pandas since their inception in 1997
Since Eisler took over the PVB program in 1991, and Draper with Pandas Hockey in 1997, over 300 student-athletes have gone through those two programs. Not only have a vast majority of those women become champions, but they also began their journeys towards becoming doctors, lawyers, business owners, teachers, professionals in their field, and community leaders.
“She gets to work with athletes during a very unique period of their lives. It’s a very important developmental period, and Laurie acknowledges that, and how important it is. She is aware of her role and responsibility as a coach, but also as a mentor in these young women’s lives. Obviously we want strong students and strong student-athletes in these programs, but ultimately we want good human beings who are happy and successful in their lives, and contribute to society.”
- Shandra Doran, Pandas Volleyball alumni (1993-98) and Emergency Room Doctor
Eisler with the CIAU Champion 1996 Pandas Volleyball team
Both Draper and Eisler have flourished in that role. Not only pushing their student-athletes to be the best they can on the ice or the court, but also helping mentor them, and bringing the best out of every individual in their respective programs.
“Looking back on this, I realize how hard of a job it was for Howie to pull off. He was able to communicate how much he wanted to win, but it never felt like it was at all costs. He wasn’t ever willing to do things that didn’t fall under his values of the team and the coaching staff. And I always felt like it was really important to Howie that I was a good person, beyond being a hockey player.”
- Former Pandas captain, and four-time national champion Kaye Burrows