Rock ink Perry to extension

The Timmins Rock have inked coach and general manager Brandon Perry, named on Wednesday as the NOJHL’s Coach of the Year for 2022, to a new three-year contract. THOMAS PERRY/THE DAILY PRESS

The Timmins Rock have locked up coach and general manager Brandon Perry for another three years.

Thomas Perry
The Daily Press/Postmedia Network

Pen was put to paper within minutes of Perry winning the Mirl “Red” McCarthy Memorial Award as the NOJHL’s Coach of the Year, but the new deal had been in the works for some time.

In fact, news of Perry being named Coach of the Year broke as Rock president Ted Gooch was driving to the McIntyre Arena to collect his autograph on the new contract which will cover the 2022-23, 2023-24 and 2024-25 seasons.

“We are very happy to see Brandon get rewarded given the quality of his coaching this year and where we have come as an organization,” Gooch said.

“We were very impressed with his first year of coaching at the Junior ‘A’ level. He has certainly exceeded all of our expectations, on and off the ice, his GM role and recruiting, as well as coaching, having the players respond and dial in, putting a quality product on the ice.

“I expressed to Brandon today how happy we are and we are certainly looking forward to having him be with our organization for the next three years, at least.”

In addition to winning the Mirl “Red” McCarthy Memorial Award, Perry was also named coach on the NOJHL’s First All-Star Team and general manager on the Second All-Star Team.

Those accolades and a new three-year contract in hand as his team prepared to kick off its first-round playoff series against the French River Rapids at the McIntyre Arena, it is hard to imaging Perry having a much better day — unless he was holding the winning $18,784,770.10 ticket from Wednesday’s Lotto 649 draw.

“Probably the extension, to be honest,” he said, when asked which put the bigger smile on his face.

Under the first-year coach and general manager the Rock finished the regular season with a record of 33-8-5-2, good enough to finish atop the NOJHL’s East Division standings.

“It has been a great first year,” Perry said.

“The team has had a ton of success on the ice and put ourselves in a great spot to have home ice through the East Division playoffs.

“There are lots of things to be proud of this season, but we still have a little ways to go here.”

Prior to being named coach and general manager of the Rock prior to the start of the season, Perry had coached the GNU18L’s Timmins Majors.

“In terms of coaching and how I do things in terms of how I relate to my players, things didn’t change,” he said.

“The preparation has been a lot more time consuming than it was in U18, obviously with it being a job as opposed to it being a volunteer position.

“In terms of preparation, at the Junior ‘A’ level teams are so good there is never really an easy night. Coaches are so good, teams are so well prepared.

“I think that’s biggest difference between the two (levels).

“Players, at the Junior ‘A’ level, take things a little more seriously, so I think it was easier for me to get more out of the team than at the U18 level, but it just seemed like a seamless transition.

“Guys bought in from Day 1 and I was able to develop really good relationship with our players over the summer and early on in the season.

“We were fortunate enough to have a good core of talented players returning and I think that obviously helped.

“Our leadership group really helped me out at the beginning of the year.”

Perry was quick to share the credit for his successful rookie season with his staff.

“Having two guys in (James Daschuk) Dazzer and (Marc Bisson) Beezer, as assistant coaches, those guys have a ton of experience at the Junior ‘A’ level,” he said.

“They kind of kept me grounded, told me what to expect. Some of their advice along the way was really helpful.”

While Daschuk and Bisson were part of former coach Corey Beer’s staff, they originally joined the organization when Paul Gagne was the bench boss,

“They have so much experience in terms of match ups, games on the road, everything,” Perry said.

“They just have so much knowledge of the game and the league and it has been really great to kind of lean on them at times.

“Look, this is an individual award but what it really means is you have a good team and that credit goes out to the players, our staff, James Marc and (assistant coach) Sean (Lee), our training staff, Lacy (Rigg), Chris (Lefebvre), Rick (Plourde) and Mel (Brousseau), and our strength and conditioning coaches, with Lisa (Tremblay) and Kate (Durst).

“Like I said, it’s an individual award but at the end of the day what it means is you have an incredibly good group, you have been doing something right as a unit. It’s not just one person.”

One big difference between Perry’s role with the Majors and his duties with the Rock is his general manager responsibility.

“That was the more daunting task, to be the GM, as well as the coach,” he said.

“I have received great support from Eric Paquette, our assistant GM. He takes care of a lot of stuff on the GM side, in terms of booking meals and rooms, and I have gotten a lot of help from Ted, in terms of scheduling.

“It allowed me to focus on the hockey side a bit, as the GM, which is kind of what I wanted.

“I wanted to be able to control the type of players we brought in here, the type of characters and not leave it up to anybody else.

“A coach has to coach the team, so it just makes sense to bring in players he wants to coach.”

Gooch had more reasons to smile Wednesday than just locking up his coach and general manager for the next three years.

He was named the 2022 winner of the Joe Drago Trophy, awarded each year to the top director in the NOJHL.

The announcement reads: “A vital cog in the entire operation of the entire Timmins franchise, Gooch’s leadership and forward thinking has led the Rock to becoming one of the elite franchises in all of Junior ‘A’ hockey, both on and off the ice.”

Gooch said, “It is very nice to be recognized, of course. It just goes to show how hard everybody has worked as a team here.

“We continue to be one of the teams at the forefront of the league.

“I am very honoured, but I couldn’t do it without the great quality of people around us at the board level and our volunteers who really help pull this whole thing together.

“I am so grateful to be able to work with such great people.”

As one might expect, Gooch is hoping to see the Rock go on a lengthy playoff run after COVID-19 pandemic robbed them of the opportunity the past two post seasons.

“I think it has been something like 600-plus days since we have played a playoff game (a 5-2 home-ice win over the Hearst Lumberjacks on March 11, 2020),” he said.

“I can’t wait to welcome everybody back to the arena for this playoff run against French River, no restrictions, no masking, no proof of vaccinations.

“All fans are welcome to come and cheer us on and show the boys some support.

“The boys have been playing hard this year to win it (championship), but certainly the alumni who missed out in 2020 and 2021 are in the minds and hearts of everyone, as well.

“It is just a feel-good moment and we can’t wait to get started.”

In addition to their team president and coach and general manager earning recognition, captain Tyler Schwindt was named to the NOJHL’s First All-Star Team, while blue-liner Cameron Dutkiewicz was named to the Second All-Star Team.

Perry said, “Tyler Schwindt had a tremendous year.

“He was great for us all year. Whether he was or not, I am not sure, but he should have been in talks for the MVP of the league, as well.

“He is just an unbelievable young man, super mature. He was the leader of our team, which hasn’t always been easy.

“He had to follow in Derek Seguin’s footsteps and people still talk about Segs, and that was well deserved on his part, but Tyler has done a great job.

“He had a great year.

“Then, you have Cameron Dutkiewicz and I don’t think there is a better defenceman in our league.

“The kid in the Soo (Andrew Gibson) is a young, very talented player, but I just don’t think there is a better defenceman in our league than Cameron Dutkiewicz, in terms of the defensive production he puts up, how big and strong he is, how skilled he is.

“He is just a tremendous talent and I have enjoyed coaching him all year and I enjoyed coaching him at the U18 level.

“It is really great to see how he has grown as a person and as a player over the years.”

All of Wednesday’s accolades aside, there is one more prize Perry and the rest of the organizations have their sites firmly set upon.

“Realistically, there is only one trophy (2022 Centennial Cup) we are interested in here and we have put ourselves in a good spot to get after it,” he said.