Successful on the ice, Kraus brothers now winning as junior, youth coaches
Brotherly competition helped push Tim and Kevin Kraus to the peaks of youth and junior hockey.
That and their experiences in the game, which started in California in the 1990s, are helping both now as coaches.
Tim (pictured below), 29, who played five seasons of pro hockey – parts of three with the Ontario Reign – after a standout Western Hockey League (WHL) career, is in his fourth season of coaching youth hockey.
Kevin (pictured above), who turned 27 on Sept. 5, is starting his sixth season of coaching junior hockey, his third as an assistant with the Vernon Vipers of the British Columbia Hockey League (BCHL).
That Kevin started coaching in juniors at 21 is more remarkable given he didn’t play much organized ice hockey until he was a Bantam. However, he and Tim weren’t newcomers to hockey as their mom and stepdad ran inline rinks, first Bayshore in Long Beach and then Coast 2 Coast in Huntington Beach.
“We were lucky,” said Tim, now a Squirt BB coach and Bantam AAA coach for the Anaheim Jr. Ducks. “We’d head over after school and have two hours of the place to ourselves. It was a good time to play without instruction. It played a huge role in my love for the game. “
It also played a huge role in developing games that translated well to the ice.
“Playing with Tim all those years and him making me look stupid is why I became a defenseman,” Kevin said, laughing. “He made me look silly, but I was in good company. He’s amazingly skilled.
“Tim was very hard on me because he’s so competitive.”
The forward played ice hockey until he was a Squirt, then took a few years off, all the while playing roller hockey.
“Our teams played against (NHL star) Bobby Ryan and (former USHL leading scorer) John Kemp, who were on the Jr. Kings Pee Wee AAA team that won Nationals,” said Tim, who returned to the ice to play Bantam A for the Huntington Beach Sun Devils.
Years of playing roller hockey for hours on end and a solid frame that topped out at 6-foot, 190 pounds put Tim on scouts’ radars. He made the Jr. Kings Bantam AAA team in 2001, and helped them win a USA Hockey National Championship the following spring, and then again on the Midget 16U AAA team in 2003.
“At that time, it was unheard of for a group of kids from California to win back-to-back titles,” he said. “I still enjoy looking at the banners when we play in Toyota Sports Center.”
In the fall of 2003, he made the Vancouver Giants, kicking off a five-year run in the WHL that saw him post 54 or more points three times. The highlight was a 76-point season in 2006-07, when the Giants won the Canadian Hockey League’s Memorial Cup. His teammates included Jonathon Blum, the first Californian to be selected in the first round of the NHL Draft (in 2007), and former L.A. Kings forward Milan Lucic.
“Winning the Memorial Cup in 2007, I remember the massive scale of the attention around it,” Tim said. “Some people said that’s harder to win than a Stanley Cup. To play in the Memorial Cup two years in a row, I’m very fortunate.”
Jr. Ducks Midget 18U AAA coach August Aiken played with and against Tim in youth hockey and wasn’t surprised at his success.
“Tim was a highly skilled power forward and he was a big piece for teams that won Nationals,” Aiken said. “Off the ice, he was a good leader and teammate.
“He was the same player in the WHL. He could be dominating at times.”
By 2007, Kevin also was playing in the WHL with Kamloops, but the 6-foot-2, 205-pound defenseman soon changed course.
“Tim played ice a lot sooner because we could only afford to have one kid play, so I started as a second-year Bantam,” Kevin said. “Remarkably, I still was drafted after playing Bantam AA. I was six feet when I was 14. I then played a year of Midget 16U AAA with LA Hockey Club before going to the WHL (in 2006).”
Aiken ran into Kevin during their overlapping careers in the BCHL, which Kevin went to during the 2007-08 season.
“I played against Kevin at Vernon – he was a big, strong, skilled defenseman who could make plays,” Aiken said. “He was very physical, and similar to Tim in that regard.”
After seeing Tim win three championships in youth and junior hockey, it was Kevin’s turn in 2009. He and a contingent of Californians who went on to play NCAA Division I hockey – defensemen Kyle Bigos and Steven Weinstein and forwards Cory Kane and Ryan Santana – helped Vernon capture the RBC Cup – Canadian Junior A hockey’s top championship.
Kevin captained the Vipers the next season, and he, Kane, Weinstein and another Californian, Jonathan Milhouse, helped them repeat as RBC Cup champions.
“We all knew each other one way or another from California,” Kevin said. “It was nice to have that core to lean on, and all of those guys played big roles in our winning.”
A year of minor pro hockey convinced Kevin that using his WHL scholarship money to go to school and coaching might be a better path. He was hired as an assistant with the Junior B Revelstoke Grizzlies of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League. Next season, at barely 23, he was promoted to coach and general manager. After a year as an assistant in Salmon Arm (BCHL), he was hired in his home away from home, Vernon, in 2014.
“The two previous assistants were friends; it just fell into my lap,” Kevin said. “I always wanted to coach. I wanted to give back to the game. I was done playing earlier than I wanted to be.
“Some kids are better off going the Junior A route, and I was one of them. I needed that and college to develop so I could have started as a pro at 24 instead of 21. I jumped in late to ice hockey and developed a lot later. I was fortunate to play pro hockey for one year, but I looked up to Tim and wish I could have had half his career.”
A knee injury hastened Tim’s departure from pro hockey in 2013. Larry Barron approached him about helping with skills instruction at his hockey academy in Yorba Linda. Tim excelled and soon was coaching a Midget 16U AA team for Orange County Hockey Club before joining the Jr. Ducks.
“I didn’t always want to coach,” Tim said. “Once OC asked me, I thought, ‘Why wouldn’t I want to coach?’ So I gave it a try.”
Tim was the pace setter on the ice, but the roles have reversed a bit behind the bench. Given the brothers’ competitive natures, there’s no telling what the future holds.
“Kevin coaching junior hockey in Canada, and doing it at a very young age isn’t something we expected,” Tim said. “He won RBC championships as a captain and put his own stamp on the family name. I’m sure there will be people knocking on his door for head coaching jobs some day if he wants that opportunity.”
– Chris Bayee