Jim Hiller behind the bench with the Tri City Americans. His club takes on Spokane in round two of the WHL playoffs that begin on Friday.

Jim Hiller behind the bench with the Tri City Americans. His club takes on Spokane in round two of the WHL playoffs that begin on Friday.

Former Nelsonite making WHL impact

Jim Hiller’s coaching abilities are once again being recognized as amongst the best in hockey.

Jim Hiller’s coaching abilities are once again being recognized as amongst the best in hockey.

The former Nelson resident and Nelson Minor Hockey graduate is a finalist for the Western Hockey League’s Dunc McCallum Memorial Trophy. The award honours the outstanding record and contribution of Dunc McCallum while coaching the Brandon Wheat Kings from 1976-81.

Currently Hiller and his Tri City Americans club are getting set to open the second round of the Western Conference playoffs where they will meet the Spokane Chiefs starting tonight at their home arena in southern Washington state.

Hiller grew up in Nelson where he played minor hockey until he was in midget.

Hiller moved away in 1987 to play in the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League with the Melville Millionaires.

From there he went to play college hockey with Northern Michigan University where he won an NCAA championship in 1991. During the championship season Hiller lead the Wildcats in scoring with 86 points while playing on a Kootenay line that included Dallas Drake (Rossland) and Scott Beattie (Kimberley). Nelson’s Morey Gare was also one of the assistant coaches on that team.

Hiller was drafted in the 10th round of the 1989 NHL draft by the Los Angeles Kings.

He eventually played 63 NHL games with the Kings, Detroit Red Wings and New York Rangers, but it was in Europe where he found most of his professional success. Hiller played six seasons in Germany and Italy in the late-1990s, winning an Italian Championship with HC Milano in 2002.

Hiller jumped from pro hockey right into coaching upon his return to Canada in 2002.

He was the assistant coach for Tri City for two seasons before moving onto a head coach role with the Alberni Valley Bulldogs of the BCHL in 2005-06 where he earned coach of the year honours.

In 2006 Hiller returned to major junior with the Chilliwack Bruins where he coached for three seasons.

In the 2009-10 season Hiller returned to Tri City as the head coach. In his first season he guided the Americans to the WHL championship where they lost in five games to the Calgary Hitmen. This season the Americans finished first in the Western Conference and second overall in the WHL.

Hiller is up against the Regina Pats’ Pat Conacher for coach of the year honours. Conacher coached Nelson’s Dryden Hunt this past season.