The Everett Silvertips assistant coach Mitch Love watches the team play against the Swift Current Broncos on Tuesday, May 8, 2018 in Everett, Wa. Love has accepted an offer to serve as head coach of the Saskatoon Blades of the Western Hockey League. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

The Everett Silvertips assistant coach Mitch Love watches the team play against the Swift Current Broncos on Tuesday, May 8, 2018 in Everett, Wa. Love has accepted an offer to serve as head coach of the Saskatoon Blades of the Western Hockey League. (Andy Bronson / The Herald)

Popular assistant coach leaving the Everett Silvertips

Mitch Love has been hired as head coach of the WHL’s Saskatoon Blades

EVERETT — Popular Everett Silvertips assistant coach and former player Mitch Love is leaving the organization.

The Saskatoon Blades introduced Love as their head coach in a Wednesday afternoon press conference, marking the end of Love’s tenure in Everett.

“It was a real tough choice (to leave Everett),” Love said. “What that franchise has been able to do for my career — from player to coach — I’m so forever grateful for the opportunity.”

In addition to serving as Everett’s lone assistant coach, Love was promoted to assistant to the general manager prior to the 2017-18 season. The 33-year-old is a native of Quesnel, British Columbia.

“I think that’s part of what we do here — we develop and move people on, whether it’s players, coaches and so forth,” Silvertips general manager Garry Davidson said. “He’s grown substantially and I think it was time for him to venture off and go after a head job if there was one available.”

This past season, Love’s seventh as a Tips assistant coach, saw the team reach the WHL championship series for the first time since its inaugural season.

Love replaces Dean Brockman, who was fired in March. Love inherits a Saskatoon team that posted a 35-33-3-1 record this season but failed to qualify for the WHL playoffs for the fifth straight year.

“It wasn’t an easy (decision), but it was something that really, at the end of the day, I couldn’t turn down,” Love said. “I wanted to be a head coach and I really like the makeup of this franchise and where they are headed and now we just need to get to work.”

One of the most popular players in Everett franchise history, Love was an assistant captain on the inaugural 2003-04 team that won the organization’s first WHL Western Conference title.

He went on to captain the 2004-05 team as an overager and signed a professional contract with NHL’s Colorado Avalanche. He played six professional seasons and totaled eight goals, 23 assists and 966 penalty minutes in 341 regular and postseason games in the American Hockey League, ECHL and Central Hockey League.

He was hired by the Silvertips as an assistant coach prior to the 2011-12 season. Initially hired to focus on strength and conditioning, Love soon was charged with coaching the Everett defense. Under his tutelage the Tips led the WHL in fewest goals allowed the past two seasons, and were second in fewest goals allowed the two years prior.

Love provided continuity for the players during new head coach Dennis Williams’ first season in 2017-18. He also assumed greater responsibilities as the coaching staff went from three coaches to two after former head coach Kevin Constantine was not retained after the 2016-17 season.

“One thing I was really grateful for this year in Everett was working with another head coach with a different makeup, different personality, different style than I was used to with Kevin, and I thought it was a really positive thing for my career,” Love said.

“Going to a two-man staff there was a little more of a workload (and) a little bit more of a maturing process for me to be around the team in meetings setting and feel like I was a part of that as a staff,” Love continued. “I think that was really helpful for me for making the transition.”

Love also coached with Hockey Canada at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge in 2015 and 2016, capturing a gold medal the first season.

During his WHL playing days, Love collected 36 goals, 104 assists and 1,009 penalty minutes in 365 regular and postseason games with the Moose Jaw Warriors, Swift Current Broncos and Silvertips.

“When you’re in this business, especially at this level, your job is to develop hockey players because they want to advance themselves in life and their careers and you want to win hockey games,” Love said.

“Every day I came to the rink in Everett that was my goal, to make sure those kids walked out more educated than they came in — on the game and life — and win hockey games for that passionate fanbase,” he continued. “I’ll definitely miss that. I can’t wait to get back down there next year and coach a game in that building on the other side of it and that place will always be home for me.”

For the latest Silvertips news follow Jesse Geleynse on Twitter.

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