This year’s Halifax McDonald’s coaching staff has a connection unlike any other at the TELUS Cup.
In fact, that connection might be unique to any team, at any level, in any part of the country.
Head coach Tim Boyce and assistants Mike Fougere, Darrell Jerrett and Tony McCarthy are not only the Macs’ coaches, they’re also alumni of the Halifax program, having all played Midget hockey with the golden arches on their chest.
For Boyce, the chance to come back home to Halifax was a no-brainer.
“This has been my dream job ever since I’ve started coaching 16 years ago” he says. “Obviously being alumni from this program, I always said that if I ever had the chance to coach the team and give back to the program that I would take the opportunity.”
And give back he has. Boyce, who played for the McDonald’s program from 1994-96, has enjoyed nothing but success in his first season behind the bench, leading the team to Nova Scotia Major Midget Hockey League and Atlantic Region titles, and to a berth in Canada’s National Midget Championship.
But it’s not just about the on-ice product.
Boyce wants the Macs to be good players, and even better people, and to remember the lessons learned. After all, what other coach would have his team clearing tables at the hotel after dinner, in the middle of a national championship?
“I think Midget hockey is part of some of the best years in your life,” Boyce said. “For me personally, hockey opened up a lot of doors and not only with personal friendships, but professionally also. It’s been a stepping stone hockey-wise, but in life as well.”
The strength of the Macs’ coaching staff, apart from their passion for the Halifax program, is the variety of their hockey experiences.
Boyce has been coaching since his early 20s, spending time in the NSMMHL, Maritime Hockey League and with Halifax-area high school teams, while all three assistants have either played or coached at virtually every level of hockey in Atlantic Canada.
And there’s no shortage of success. Fougere and Jerrett were teammates on the Halifax Oland Exports team that won the 2002 Royal Bank Cup, Canada’s National Junior A Championship, Jerrett played in a Memorial Cup with the Halifax Mooseheads and a CIS championship with Dalhousie University, and McCarthy – a former Macs captain – won the Don Johnson Cup as Atlantic Junior B champions with the Sackville Blazers.
Needless to say, there aren’t many situations the foursome hasn’t seen before.
“I think the combination of all the experience on our coaching staff is great,” Jerrett said. “We can all bounce ideas off each other and see how we’ve dealt with certain things in the past. I think we’ve helped build confidence for our team and it helped with our players’ experience as well.”
“I just try to reflect back on my experiences a little bit and share them with the kids,” McCarthy added. “I tell them to think positive and take it all in stride, because you can only get these opportunities so many times. I tell them to soak it all in and enjoy every bit of it.”
The TELUS Cup experience, however, is a new one.
Halifax is into Canada’s National Midget Championship for the fifth time, but only the second since 1994, and none of the four coaches had the chance to play for a national title as a Mac.
Add in the fact the Atlantic Region doesn’t have a great track record – only one Atlantic team has reached the final (Dartmouth in 2002, and they had a young Sidney Crosby) – and it’s a steep mountain for the Macs to climb in Moose Jaw.
That’s why Boyce and his staff have set just one goal: “We want to get into the semifinal game and then take it from there.”
“We are going to stick to our game plan; take every shift at a time, every game at a time,” Jarrett added. “We want to show the other teams that we’ve come to play our game and hopefully we have great results from it.”
All four Macs coaches admit being at the TELUS Cup, with the team they grew up playing for, is like a second chance to fulfill a dream they all had as teenagers – to win a national championship, and be the first Atlantic team to be the nation’s best.
Would they have liked to do it as players? Sure. But if they get to hoist the TELUS Cup wearing a suit instead of a pair of skates, here’s guessing they won’t mind one bit.