10 new faces will step behind the bench next month when the puck drops for the coming Canadian Hockey League campaign, with the majority of the changeover happening out west.
The biggest arrival is the return of Willie Desjardins to the Medicine Hat Tigers, where he will hold the dual role of general manager and head coach. The 62-year-old native of Climax, Sask., previously spent eight seasons with the Tigers from 2002-10, working as the head coach for the first three seasons before also taking on the GM job in his fourth year. Desjardins’ time with the Tigers included two Ed Chynoweth Cup titles (2004, 2007) as well as CHL-wide recognition with the Brian Kilrea Coach of the Year Award in 2005-06. Including a half-season with the Saskatoon Blades in 1997-98, Desjardins owns a 343-205-21-46 career record as a WHL head coach, including four consecutive division titles from 2003-07.
After leaving the Tigers in 2010, Desjardins guided the AHL’s Texas Stars to the Calder Cup in 2014 and has since served as head coach of the Vancouver Canucks and Los Angeles Kings. On the international stage, Desjardins served as an assistant coach for Canada winning gold at the 2009 IIHF World Junior Hockey Championship then brought home silver as head coach in 2010, earned a first-place finish at the 2017 Spengler Cup, and a bronze medal victory at the 2018 Winter Olympics.
Desjardins replaces former bench boss Shaun Clouston, who had a nine-year run as head coach of the Tigers, and 16 years as part of Medicine Hat’s coaching staff. Clouston, 51, has since joined the Kamloops Blazers, where he will serve as head coach.
“I am really excited to be coming back to the Tigers and to Medicine Hat,” Desjardins said in a statement. “It is a great organization, outstanding community, and I have always felt it’s home.”
In Kamloops, Clouston brings plenty of experience to his role, acutely familiar with the WHL, counting his decade-plus with the Tigers in addition to the 2002-03 season behind the bench with the Tri-City Americans. A former WHL player, Clouston spent three years with the Portland Winter Hawks from 1986-89, captaining the club in his two latter seasons, then rejoining the team as an assistant coach in 2001-02. Clouston is the third-winningest coach among active WHL bench bosses with 391 career victories.
A native of Viking, Alta., Clouston has twice served as an assistant with Team Canada at the Ivan Hlinka Memorial Tournament, helping the team to gold medal wins in 2014 and 2015, while as a head coach he secured a bronze medal at the 2015 IIHF World U18 Championships. Clouston’s coaching career also includes two seasons with the Tulsa Oilers of the former Central Hockey League. In joining the Blazers, Clouston replaces the outgoing Serge Lajoie, who has since signed on as a head coach with the Edmonton Hockey Academy.
“It is a tremendous honour to join the Kamloops Blazers organization,” Clouston said in a statement. “I am excited to meet our players and eager to begin working alongside Matt, Darryl, and our entire staff in creating a successful team both on the ice and in the community.”
Sticking in British Columbia, the Prince George Cougars will have a familiar face behind the bench in Mark Lamb, who joined the team as general manager last season and, after becoming interim head coach in early February, will hold both roles in 2019-20. Lamb becomes the 13th head coach in Cougars’ franchise history, replacing Richard Matvichuk.
Lamb, 55, previously had a seven-year stint as GM and head coach of the Swift Current Broncos, while his time as an assistant in the pro ranks counts six seasons with the Dallas Stars and one year with the Edmonton Oilers. Prior to returning to his WHL roots, Lamb spent one season as head coach of the AHL’s Tucson Roadrunners.
A former player, Lamb spent four full seasons in the WHL from 1981-84, including the 1983-84 campaign in which he led the Tigers in scoring with 136 points in 72 contests. That same season saw the native of Ponteix, Sask., claim the Brad Hornung Trophy as the WHL’s Most Sportsmanlike Player. His decorated NHL playing career then included stops with six clubs in which he amassed 146 points in 403 appearances, in addition to a Stanley Cup championship with the Edmonton Oilers in 1990.
“There were several qualified candidates who expressed interest in the position,” Cougars co-owner John Pateman said in a statement. “At the end of the day, when looking at Mark’s experience, reputation and vision for this team, as well as positive feedback from players and agents, we knew he was the best fit going forward.”
In Spokane, the Chiefs have turned to veteran voice Manny Viveiros, who joins the club following an extensive coaching career that includes last season as an assistant with the Oilers, as well as two seasons as head coach of the Broncos (2016-18). Viveiros also has experience coaching in Europe in the Austrian and German leagues.
The native of St. Albert, Alta., returns to his junior roots where he will look to recreate his final season with the Broncos in which he posted a 48-17-5-2 record and guided the franchise to its first Ed Chynoweth Cup title in 15 years. Over two seasons with the Broncos, Viveiros compiled a 87-40-9-8 showing. In 2017-18, he was presented with the Dunc McCallum Memorial Trophy as the WHL Coach of the Year. On the international stage, Viveiros’ successes include coaching Austria to a Division 1 promotion at the IIHF World Championship, doing so as a head coach in 2012 and 2014 and as an assistant in 2010.
Viveiros brings a strong understanding of the WHL having previously skated for four seasons with the Raiders from 1982-86, in which he recorded 321 points in 251 career appearances and captured the Memorial Cup in 1985. The 1985-86 campaign saw Viveiros put up 92 points in 57 games as he was later presented with the Four Broncos Trophy as the WHL Player of the Year representing the Eastern Conference. Viveiros, who is the Raiders’ all-time franchise leader for points by a defenceman, later played 29 games across three NHL seasons with the Minnesota North Stars.
The 53-year-old joins the Chiefs following the departure of former head coach Dan Lambert, who after two seasons with the club has accepted an assistant coaching position with the Nashville Predators.
“The WHL is very special to me and my family,” Viveiros said in a statement. “I am thrilled to work with the Chiefs’ organization to continue to develop great young hockey players and, more importantly, help these young men mature to achieve their goals on and off the ice.”
Rounding out the WHL, the Brandon Wheat Kings named 54-year-old Dave Lowry as head coach after he spent the past two seasons as an assistant with the Los Angeles Kings. A native of Sudbury, Ont., Lowry’s extensive coaching resume began in 2005-06 as an assistant with the Calgary Hitmen, spending four years with the team, including the 2008-09 campaign in which he was elevated to head coach and guided the club to a 59-9-3-1 showing and a trip to the Ed Chynoweth Cup Final. Lowry was then promoted to the Calgary Flames the following season, spending three years with the team as an assistant coach.
Lowry’s WHL coaching career also includes a five-year stint as head coach of the Victoria Royals (2012-17), a tenure which saw him take home the Dunc McCallum Memorial Trophy as the WHL Coach of the Year in both 2014 and 2016. On the international stage, Lowry joined Team Canada as an assistant coach at the 2015 IIHF World Junior Hockey Challenge en route to a gold medal victory. On the ice, Lowry’s playing days included three seasons with the OHL’s London Knights (1982-85), serving as captain for the latter two seasons, while collecting 223 points in 169 career contests. In the NHL, he suited up for five clubs across 1,084 games in which he tallied 351 points.
Lowry replaces former bench boss David Anning, who had spent seven years with the organization, including three as head coach.
“We are extremely excited to name Dave our head coach,” Wheat Kings owner and governor Kelly McCrimmon said in a statement. “He’s a proven winner, has tremendous experience, and a great reputation for developing players.”
In the OHL, one of two changes comes with the Owen Sound Attack, where after assuming the interim head coaching duties last season Alan Letang will remain in the role full time in 2019-20. After assuming the head coaching duties in late January, Letang closed out the season with an 8-11-2-0 record.
Letang, 43, has spent the past two seasons with the Attack and assumed the top job following the departure of former bench boss Todd Gill. A native of Renfrew, Ont., Letang began his coaching career in 2014 as an assistant in the KHL. In 2016, he was named head coach of Croatia for the Division 2 IIHF World Championship. He served as an assistant with Team Canada Black at the 2018 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge and was recently added to Canada’s National Junior Team staff where he will assume the role of pre-scout coach. A former OHL defenceman across four seasons (1991-95), Letang accumulated 96 points in 233 appearances. He went on to play 14 games in the NHL with the Flames, Dallas Stars, and New York Islanders.
“In my 13 years with the Owen Sound Attack, I think this is the best group of coaches we’ve had from top to bottom,” Attack general manager Dale DeGray said in a statement. “Alan, Jordan, and Joey have been great to work with and even better with our team. We’re looking forward to a very successful season with this group.”
Most recently, the Hamilton Bulldogs announced Vince Laise as head coach for the 2019-20 season. Laise, 36, a native of Brampton, has been in the role of associate coach to the Bulldogs since 2016 and helped lead the team to winning the OHL J. Ross Robertson Cup in 2018.
“Vince’s determination, passion and work ethic has prepared him for this position as head coach,” said Bulldogs President and General Manager Steve Staios. “He is on an incredible trajectory and has a progressive mind for the game with a focus on developing the athlete. We are incredibly excited to have Vince lead our hockey club.”
Laise spent three seasons as an assistant coach with the Erie Otters of the Ontario Hockey League. Laise has also been an assistant coach with the Oakville Blades (OJHL) and Brampton Bombers (GOJHL). Prior to entering the coaching ranks, Laise spent four years with the University of Maine Black Bears playing in two NCAA Frozen Four Tournaments. After his collegiate career, Laise suited up in two professional games with the Fort Wayne Komets of the IHL.
In the QMJHL, the Halifax Mooseheads needed a new bench boss following the departure of first-year head coach Eric Veilleux, who after guiding the club to the Championship Final at the 2019 Memorial Cup presented by Kia accepted an assistant coaching role with the AHL’s Syracuse Crunch.
Joining the Mooseheads is longtime bench boss J.J. Daigneault, a 53-year-old Montreal native who last season served as an assistant with the AHL’s San Antonio Rampage following a six-year run as part of the Canadiens’ coaching staff. His experience also includes six seasons as an assistant with the AHL’s Hartford Wolf Pack franchise and one year as an assistant with the former Phoenix RoadRunners of the ECHL, making him a new face to the junior ranks and a first-time head coach.
However, Daigneault is no stranger to the QMJHL as his playing days included three seasons with the Laval Voisins and Longueuil Chevaliers from 1981-84, in which he collected 126 points in 144 games. In 1982-83, he claimed the Emile Bouchard Trophy as the QMJHL Defenceman of the Year after recording 84 points in 70 games. In April, Daigneault was inducted into the QMJHL Hall of Fame. At the pro level, Daigneault appeared in 899 NHL games, suiting up for 10 clubs, including the 1993 Stanley Cup champion Canadiens.
“I’m very happy to welcome J.J. to the organization and we are fortunate to be getting a coach of his stature and background,” Mooseheads general manager Cam Russell said in a statement. “Our players will benefit greatly from his experience and knowledge of the game.”
In Baie-Comeau, the Drakkar have turned to 40-year-old Pointe-Claire, Que., native Jon Goyens, who returns to the QMJHL after last serving as a video coach with the Lewiston MAINEiacs during the 2008-09 campaign. In the intertwining years, Goyens was the head coach of the Lac St-Louis Lions at the midget Triple-A level for 10 seasons, a tenure which included two playoff championships. He now brings that wealth of experience in developing young players to the junior ranks, with Lions graduates and QMJHL alumni in Jonathan Drouin (Halifax Mooseheads) and Anthony Duclair (Quebec Remparts) among the players who have previously played under Goyens, as well as current Drakkar captain Gabriel Fortier.
In 2013, Goyens served as an assistant coach with Team Canada Quebec at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge, helping the squad advance to the bronze medal game. Goyens joins the Drakkar following the departure of Martin Bernard, who after spending the past three seasons with Baie-Comeau will serve as head coach of the QCHL’s Thetford Mines Filons.
“I am very excited by this opportunity to coach a team in the QMJHL,” Goyens said in a statement. “The timing has been really good. Everything aligned perfectly for us. I cannot wait to get started.”
Rounding out the QMJHL, the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles have hired Jake Grimes as their new head coach, a native Nova Scotian whose wealth of coaching experience counts the past 15 seasons in the OHL, including 11 years as an assistant with the former Belleville Bulls franchise (2004-15), two seasons as an assistant with the Peterborough Petes (2015-17), and two as an associate coach with the Guelph Storm (2017-19).
Grimes, 46, joins the Screaming Eagles after helping guide the Storm to the J. Ross Robertson Cup last season, a year in which the club finished with a 40-18-6-4 regular-season showing before mounting three comebacks in the playoffs, including a six-game series win in the final round versus the top-seeded Ottawa 67’s. On four occasions, Grimes has coached under the national spotlight, representing Team Canada Ontario at the U17s from 2008 to 2011, with the latter two years as the head coach, totaling three gold medal wins, plus a silver in 2010.
A former junior forward, Grimes laced up for the Bulls for three seasons (1989-92), recording 206 points in 198 career contests. He continues his coaching career with the Screaming Eagles following the departure of former bench boss Marc-Andre Dumont, who had been a part of the organization for the past seven seasons.
“I am extremely proud and fortunate to be able to return to my home province of Nova Scotia as the head coach of the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles,” Grimes said in a statement. “I would like to thank every player, coach, manager, owner, and trainer I have worked with along the way.”