Not ready to lace up the skates and say goodbye to the game at the end of your career? You don’t always have to! I sat down with former Junior C hockey player Jordan Fuller and we discussed his transition from taking shots to calling shots as he went from being the assistant captain in his final year of junior hockey to assistant coach. Jordan claims the titles change of “assistant captain” to “assistant coach” was all a little bit random; “it wasn’t discussed during the off season at all. I came to a few games during the pre-season to check out how the team was looking, figured it was just something to do with some spare time.” But his spare time disappeared quickly when team owners and head coach approached him asking his interest in working with the team. Jordan claims it was the perfect way to stay involved with the sport and his community. He explained to me that it was a great opportunity to learn more about the game from the coaching side of things.
Saying goodbye to the thing you love is never easy and Jordan was refusing to say goodbye just yet. He talked to me about how coaching really eased that transition and let him hold onto the thing he loved that much longer. “Coaching definitely made it easier to stop playing. I am not sure how I would have handled an entire season without being at the rink. I know the free time would have been nice but I also love being around the rink and hockey environment.” He highly recommends getting involved in teams and the community when yo ur career comes to an end. Although, coaching is very different from playing Jordan claims to have no regrets getting up on that bench to call shots for the team he was previously taking shots for. He said it was definitely hard going from player to coach as things just aren’t the same. “At some games, I get fired up and wish that I could be on the ice playing. I still had a lot of good friends on the team so it was cool to still be around them and help continue the winning environment I helped build over the last four seasons of playing.” The Dorchester Dolphins Junior C hockey club has done very well for themselves over the last few years of hockey, Jordan was grateful to be a part of some big accomplishments for those years and got to take part in new accomplishments for the team as a coach.
“The team I coach, Dorchester Dolphins, did exceptionally well this season. We had our best regular season in team history, going undefeated with a 39-0-1 record, which tied the all-time Jr. C record for best regular season. This was a special season to be involved in and I am glad that I was a part of it. We won our playoffs for the second year in a row in game 7, also a first in team history. We lost in the first round of the Schmalz Cup quarter finals to the Essex 73’s, which is the third time this has happened. I hope I can be a part of the team that finally gets over that hump and make the next big step for this team.” Big things happening for a small town. It’s motivating to see a small town do so well in something so cherished by the community. For those really passionate with the sport I can only push and encourage you to stay in the hockey community as you move forward with life.
It’s not always about big things when it comes to being part of a team and winning. Jordan may have only been an Assistant Coach but he worked hard to earn the respect as if shifted when he changed positions. “There has been some respect that has changed from the team, but I obviously don’t have the same respect that head coach Mark gets.” Jordan claimed. “That is completely okay, my respect level within the team was already pretty high due to being a four-year veteran all with Dorchester and was also assistant captain last year.” He made may good points as a young coach to an older team, it wasn’t about being on top, it was about respecting each other and working together. “I didn’t expect the same respect level as Mark, but I feel that when it came down to me having to discuss serious hockey situations, the boys took me serious and at the end of the day that is most important.” One of the major contributions you can make to a coaching staff going from player to coach is being on the inside, and being able to form good connections with the players. “In my last few seasons as a player I was often the middle man between the GM, coaches, and players. This carried on this season as the players felt comfortable discussing everything with me, and I would often communicate these ideas to the coaches.” From a coaching perspective this can all be useful information that players might no directly bring to your attention. “This was an advantage to the GM and other coaches as I was an inside set of eyes and ears in the dressing which provided them with player information they do not normally have, such as ailing injuries, off ice problems, etc.”
We both discussed and agreed, its important to stay active and involved with what you love. For now, Jordan will remain as a coach with the Dorchester Dolphins. He told me about the new adventures in his life such as starting a masters program at Western University in London, ON, just down the road from Dorchester, ON. The program is two years long, and he claims it’ll keep him in London for at least two more hockey seasons. “How long I stay here is unknown, likely a while and if the other coaches move on due to other issues and I am still around, then I could possibly be in position to take over if I have enough experience by this time. I have other close buddies that would eventually like to coach with me. As time goes on and I have my own kids in the future, the change from coaching Jr. to youth seems inevitable. I can see myself coaching for a long time, I enjoy the environment and I have fun doing it.” At the end of the day (or season) it’s never easy to say goodbye, hang up skates and leave the rink, but it is important to stay involved in any way that you can. Coaching is a tough role but look into your local hockey community as there is so many different opportunities to be involved. And always consider options, there is always men’s league, beer league and so many other leagues that you can play in when your junior career is over. “I still play intramurals at Western which is pretty competitive, and I play in competitive men’s leagues in the Winter and Summer, I also expect to continue that for quite some time as I love being on the ice playing no matter the level.”