Rock name Perry GM/Coach

The NOJHL’s Timmins Rock have a general manager and head coach who should be quite familiar to local hockey fans.

Thomas Perry – The Daily Press/Postmedia Network
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The team announced Friday morning former Timmins Majors coach Brandon Perry, who has had a close working relationship with the Rock during the past couple of seasons, has accepted the position.

“Brandon Perry is a bright young coach and a great leader, who has a track record of both effectively developing young players and successfully motivating veterans,” Rock President Ted Gooch said.

“We love what he was able to do with the Timmins Majors program and are confident he has the best skill set to get the maximum potential out of our team.”

As one might expect, Perry is pumped to take charge of a program that has enjoyed so much success over the years.

“Like I said to Ted, it is such an honour,” he said.

“It is humbling and I am looking forward to it, excited to get to work.”

Given the number of players he has graduated to the Rock from the Majors, it is understandable why Perry feels so comfortable moving into his new position.

Forwards Harry Clark (22, 9-11-20, 6) and Landon Deforge (21, 2-7-9, 2), who both played for the Perry-coach Majors in 2019-20, enjoyed solid rookie campaigns with the Rock in 2020-21.

In addition, forward Pierre Racicot (1, 0-0-0, 0) and blue-liner Chase Longhurst (1, 0-0-0, 0) joined the Rock after the 2020-21 Canadian Junior Hockey League trade deadline.

“It certainly helps having those relationships built already,” he said.

“I am the kind of coach who really places a lot of value on having those kinds of relationships. Having those kinds of relationships allows you to be tougher and allows them (players) to understand it is coming from a place of caring and not just a place of harping all the time.

“Obviously, those relationships that have been developed already are a huge asset.”

While he was coaching the Majors, Perry worked closely over the past couple of seasons with former Rock coach Corey Beer and the new bench boss feels what he gained from that relationship will be an asset, as well.

“I have never met anybody in the sport, coaches I have played for, guys I have played with, with a mind like Corey’s in terms of the miniscule details of the game,” he said.

“He definitely helped tactically, seeing systems in a different way, how different systems work in different situations.

“He was a great mentor over the last three or four years and that is going to continue. I know he is down south now, but I know that friendship and mentorship will continue.

“I learned a lot from Corey and I really enjoyed my time working with him.”

Beer resigned his position of head coach with the Rock in February to accept a post with the Whitby-based Okanagan Hockey Group.

Every coach brings their own unique style behind the bench and adapts it to the athletes he has to work with, so what can fans expect from the Perry-led 2021-22 Rock?

“Systems wise, I think it will all depend upon the caliber of players we will have,” he said.

“We will tweak it toward our players, for sure, so they can showcase their skills within the system.

“It is going to be a hard-working, passionate team. You can ask players who have played for me before. One of my biggest assets as a coach is my ability to motivate.

“You will see a team that plays extremely hard and absolutely loves playing the game.

Given the Rock’s impressive regular-season record over the past two seasons (18-4-0, first overall in 2020-21, and 42-11-2-1, second overall in 2019-20), Perry clearly has some big shoes to fill.

That task, of course, is not made any easier by the fact five key contributors — captain Derek Seguin, fellow forwards Josh Dickson, Riley Robitaille and Graeme McCrory, as well as star goalie Tyler Masternak — will not be back.

Still, Perry does not view this as a rebuilding year for the Rock.

“There is no plan in my revision for rebuilding,” he said.

“Losing those high-end guys is going to be tough. They are obviously going to be hard to replace, but not impossible.

“Replacing what Derek means to the community, being a local captain I think will be the hardest part to replace.

“In terms of production, I am confident there are guys who will be able to step up and fill the void and the success we have had in previous years will make the job of recruiting a lot easier.

“I have no concerns about being able to do that.”

Perry indicated no decisions have been made yet in terms of the fate of last season’s assistant coaches (James Daschuk, Marc Bisson and Sean Lee) or any new faces he might like to add to his staff.

“My first though is to sit down with the guys who are there right now and kind of explain my vision, what I expect, the direction I want to go, the commitment I expect and have that conversation with them out of respect to them first,” he said.

“Just like anything else with your team, you start building. If it is not those guys, then who?”

Perry sees advantages to having both the general manager and head coach responsibilities.

“It is a huge benefit to have the dual role,” he said.

“Obviously, I will have (assistant general manager) Eric Paquette helping me with that side of things but I think it is important to control the type of player, the type of person and the type of family you want in your organization, the culture you want to build and not have any surprises.

“I have a unique ability connect with players today and I want full control over recruiting and talking to these players, bringing in the right guys and the right fit for our program.

Regardless of any coaching change, there is always a great deal of turnover from year-to-year on Junior ‘A’ rosters, but Perry is excited about the talent level of those who are eligible to return to the Rock roster in 2021-22.

That group includes goalie Gavin McCarthy, blue-liners Eric Moreau, Zachary Fortin, Evan Beaudry, Lucas Branch, Cole Williamson, Bode Dunford, Felix Cadieux-Fredette and Longhurst, as well as forwards Tyler Schwindt, Zach Smith, Tyler Gilberds, Henry Brock, Nicolas Pigeon, Clark, Tyler Patterson, Deforge and Racicot.

“With some of them having played for Beersy for one year, some of them two years, you know they are going to be extremely structured,” Perry said.

“You know their hockey IQ is going to be off the charts and they are going to be easy to work with.

“There are going to be guys who are going to want to look elsewhere, but in the near future I am going to be hoping to sit down with all of the eligible returning guys to them the roles I see them fitting into, as well as the direction and vision we want to go with the team.

“We don’t want to take any steps backwards. We want to continue with the recent success and get that championship.

“I know they were close the last few years and COVID-19 might have ruined one and possibly two championships.”

Given there is still snow on the ground, as of Friday afternoon, it might seem like the 2021-22 NOJHL campaign is still a ways off, but given teams can begin signing players on June 1, Perry expects the next month to be quite busy.

“This next month is super important,” he said.

“A lot of the high-end guys coming out of Midget (U-18), even Tier 2 guys, are already committed or will be committed before June 1, so it is extremely important to get after those guys and explain to them what we can offer as a program, in terms of their development and their advancement.

“This next month is going to be just crazy. I know the last two days have been kind of a whirlwind. Your mind is racing and you are looking at the holes you have to fill and how you are going to get it done.

“I am confident come June 1 we will have some good pieces in place, either returning players or new pieces to add.”

Gooch acknowledged the job Perry did graduating players from the Majors to the Rock lineup in the past couple of years was a key factor in the decision to hire him as GM and coach.

“He is a strong player-development coach and we have seen a lot of successes come to our program through Brandon’s and that was a significant factor when we were finalizing our candidates,” he said.

“He works really well with his players and that is something we wanted to focus on. We believe Brandon is the perfect fit for that.”

Gooch noted during the past couple of seasons the Rock have led the NOJHL in terms of returning players and he is confident that trend will continue with Perry behind the bench.

“It speaks a lot to the culture we have started to build here in Timmins and that will be a major focus, not only having players come here but wanting to remain here throughout their Junior ‘A’ career,” he said.

The Rock president sees a lot of similarities between the team’s former coach, Beer, and its new bench boss, Perry.

“That’s especially true in terms of preparedness and the technical aspects of the game,” he said.

“They met a lot throughout the past couple of seasons and always bounced ideas off each other in terms of systems and they really worked well together.

“That is another reason we are very comfortable with Brandon.”

It should come as no surprise, given the Rock’s place as one of the elite franchises in the NOJHL, that there was a great deal of interest in the team’s general manager and coaching position.

“We received quite a number of applications from across the country and even one from overseas,” Gooch said.

“It took a little bit of time to narrow things down to a Top 3 and our board met this past week and ultimately we decided on Brandon Wednesday night.

“I called him Thursday morning to give him the good news.”

Hiring a new general manager and coach was one of the key item’s on the Rock’s to-do list for the off season, but there are a number of other items Gooch expects they will address in the not-to-distant future, as well.

“The league will be holding our summer meetings and there have been a lot of changes that have taken place with the members of the NOJHL,” he said.

Those changes include Friday’s approval of sale of the  Soo Thunderbirds franchise to a group headed up by former National Hockey League defenceman Trevor Daley, long-time professional player Cole Jarrett and Lee-Anne Jarrett.

In addition, earlier this spring the return of the Elliot Lake franchise for the 2021-22 season was confirmed along with the team’s name changing to the Red Wings from the Wildcats.

“There will be a lot of things to be discussed at the table this summer,” Gooch said.

At some point, as well, the Rock will launch a season-ticket campaign in hopes the COVID-19 pandemic will either end or be reduced to the point where fans can once again pack the McIntyre Arena.

“We were very grateful to all our season ticket holders this past season for their support, allowing their tickets to be pushed to our upcoming season,” Good said.

“Once we can get some more assurance the upcoming season will move forward, we will push for anybody new who wants to purchase season tickets and support the club.”

While the pandemic kept fans out of the seats at the McIntyre Arena in 2020-21, the Rock have traditionally led the NOJHL in attendance since the franchise moved back to Timmins from Iroquois Falls.

The team is also hoping things will progress to the point where it can have a normal summer of fundraising activities.

“We will have another online auction we will be launching in the next few weeks, with a range of different items fans can purchase,” Gooch said.

“We have done two online auctions now and both of them have been very successful, including one for our game-worn third jerseys we just finished up a month or so ago.

“As of now, we are still planning to continue with our NHL Celebrity Golf Tournament, as well, which is scheduled the third week of August.”

What would have been the fifth-annual version of the event had to be cancelled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.