By Thomas Perry, The Daily Press (Timmins)
TIMMINS – Corey Beer helped lead the Cobourg Cougars to a Royal Bank Cup championship this season and the Timmins Rock are hoping he will guide the NOJHL club down a similar path in 2017-18.
Ted Gooch, president of the Rock’s board of directors, announced Wednesday morning Beer, who served as an associate coach with the Cougars for the past five seasons, has been hired as head coach of the franchise.
“We are very honoured to have Corey commit to coming up and coaching the Timmins Rock,” Gooch said.
“He had five years with Cobourg and they won the RBC Cup this year, which was a key factor in our decision.”
The Rock, who had originally hired and then parted ways with former Wellington Dukes associate coach Ryan Woodward, received a number of excellent applications for the job, but it’s hard to ignore a national championship.
“The quality of the applications we received was outstanding,” Gooch said.
“It was a tough choice, but in the end Corey’s experience Cobourg, which is a classy organization, put him over the top.”
Beer, of course, is still walking on air after being part of the Cougars’ run that ended with a 3-2 win over the Brooks Bandits and a national championship on May 21.
“I don’t know that it has sunk in just yet,” he said.
“The glow of winning that title is still kind of fresh in my mind. I kind of joked with a couple of the players that once you win the title and you are holding the trophy, you don’t want to leave the ice, but rink officials were wanting to let the ice melt and get the lacrosse season underway.
“It was pretty special moment. It was a week of the best hockey I have ever been a part of, for sure.
“That’s the goal for any Junior ‘A’ franchise and it is going to be one of our prime goals here in Timmins. We want to make sure we have that kind of product on the ice.”
After helping the Cougars realize that goal, Beer is confident he is ready to take the next step.
“It has always been a goal of mine to be a head coach at the Junior ‘A’ level,” he said.
“I have spent five years with Cobourg and a year before that with Whitby (Fury), so when we capped it off last week with national championship and a head coaching opportunity with an historic franchise came along I was excited.
“Cobourg has a small-town atmosphere and Timmins has that same kind of feel.”
Beer served as an associate coach on the staff of John Druce, a former NHL player who spent time with the Washington Capitals, Winnipeg Jets, Los Angeles Kings and Philadelphia Flyers.
“Working with John, a first-time head coach, was a good experience,” Beer said.
“Having been on the staff for quite a few years, I had a good familiarity with the league and the players.
“John is a very passionate guy who has an upbeat personality. We had a pretty veteran roster and he kept things pretty loose for the guys.
“We had a great leadership group, as well, and you can’t write a script any better than winning a national championship.”
Although none of them played in Timmins, three of the Cougars players — forward Brenden Locke (38, 19-27-46, 21) and defencemen Brennan Roy (53, 14-43-57, 34) and Nick Minerva (15, 6-4-10, 18) — have a connection to the Rock franchise.
They each played for the Abitibi Eskimos before the franchise relocated to Timmins prior to the 2015-16 season and became the Rock.
“Nick is down in New Jersey right now, but I just spoke with Brennan and Brendan,” Beer said.
“I got to work with Brennan on the back end the last two years. The stuff he is able to do on the ice is incredible and Brendan going to Cornell is a special achievement all in itself.
“They speak very highly of the league and the franchise. They attribute a lot of their success to getting their feet wet and getting going with the Eskimos. It was a good starting point for those two and Matt Busby, a former Soo Thunderbird, who also played for us spoke very highly of the NOJHL.”
Under the leadership of Beer, Rock fans can expect to see the team play an exciting brand of hockey in 2017-18.
“We want to be a fast team,” he said.
“Coming off this RBC week, it is easy to see there is no room for slow players in the game anymore.
“If we have a fast team that can push the pace, it is going to be in our best interest.
“We also want to make sure we have a very smart team. We are going to be a sound structural team that is positionally sound and takes care of our own end, but we are going to try and push as much offence and four-man entries and exits as possible.
“We want to hang onto the puck and have good possession. One of the things I learned from Curtis Hodgins (coach of the Cougars from 2012-13 to 2014-15), who I started coaching with, was making sure guys are in the right spot defensively to limit the other team’s offensive opportunities.”
Even though he has only officially been on the job for a short period of time, Beer has been working hard with Rock general manager Kevin Peever to recruit players for the squad.
“Kevin and our assistant GM, Eric Paquette, have done a great job bringing in talent from across the country,” he said.
“Being a southern Ontario boy, I have got some pretty good hooks into some local kids and potentially a couple of those guys might be able to make the trek up.
“We are going to see a good influx of veteran players coming back to the team, as well as some high-end young prospects. By Christmas, those young guys are going to be the ones pushing this program forward.”
Beer visited Timmins once when he was coaching a minor hockey team and he is looking forward to getting to know more about the community.
“Obviously, it’s a beautiful city,” he said.
“Being a (Toronto Maple) Leafs fan growing up, you can’t ask for anything better than working in a rink (McIntyre Arena) that’s a mini-replica of Maple Leaf Gardens.
“When I coached in Whitby, they didn’t have much of a fan base, but in Cobourg they averaged about 400 to 500 fans a night and once we got into the playoffs there would be more than 1,000.
“To see your players feed off that kind of energy and have that kind of fan support makes the job that much more special.”
Beer is looking forward to working with holdover Rock assistant coaches James Daschuk and Marc Bisson.
“It’s a huge bonus to have James and Marc there,” he said.
“They know the ins and outs of the league and that’s invaluable information. I will be picking their brains on all things NOJHL.”
Beer is scheduled to arrive in Timmins for the Rock’s annual golf tournament at Spruce Needles Golf Club on July 20.
“Right now, my golf game is stagnant,” he said.
“I am hoping I will be able to hold my own out there, but I certainly won’t be breaking any records.”
That said, he is looking forward to getting a chance to meet with fans, sponsors, team officials and some of the players.
“The more face time you can put in and make yourself known around the community, the better,” he said.
“We want to make sure our staff and our players are accessible and out in the community as much as possible.”
NOJHL NOTES — The Kirkland Lake Gold Miners also have a new coach in place following the departure of coach and general manager Marc Lafleur, who accepted a similar position with the Hearst Lumber Kings. Ryan Wood, who spent the 2016-17 campaign with the New Tecumseth Civics, of the GMHL, is the new coach and general manager of the Gold Miners … Speaking of the Lumber Kings, they have added former Abitibi Eskimos scoring star Marc-Alain Begin to their coaching staff. He will serve as an assistant along with Bryan Wilson, J.F. Sylvestre, Claude Lodin and Alain Blanchette on Lafleur’s staff.