It has been nearly a decade since Jerome Dupont led a team to Canada’s National Junior A Championship. The latest trip, though, isn’t about turning a
second time into a charm but perhaps a personal encore performance.
In 2007, Dupont arrived in Prince George, B.C., with the Aurora Tigers and by the end of the pinnacle tournament guided his club to a national title at the
then-RBC Royal Bank Cup.
Nine years later he again returns to Western Canada looking for the same result at the 2016 RBC Cup in Lloydminster, only this time as the general manager
and head coach of the Trenton Golden Hawks.
“It’s an honour to be here,” says Dupont, now in his fifth season with Trenton. “It’s exciting. It’s changed over the years, but all for the good. I’m
In earning the right to represent the Ontario Junior Hockey League at the RBC Cup for a second time inside of a decade, it is obvious success surrounds
Back in 2007 his Tigers rolled into Prince George as the No. 1 ranked team in the country and didn’t disappoint with a tough 3-1 victory in the
championship game over the host Prince George Spruce Kings.
In all, the Tigers finished that season with a 73-10-1 record and this year his Golden Hawks arrive on the Alberta/Saskatchewan border with a similar
Trenton finished with a 44-6-1-3 regular-season record this year before ripping through the postseason with only two losses (one in overtime) in 18 playoff
In fact, one might have been alerted to the Golden Hawks potential success this year when they started the season with 10 straight wins, although the
54-year-old Dupont admits to paying very little attention to those types of streaks.
“I’m not one to value one win over the other,” he says.
And while there’s no secret science to building a successful Junior A program in two different cities, Dupont does acknowledge there are a few factors to
his coaching achievements.
“I really work at it. I have a good eye for talent. And when I tell a kid something, he can take it to the bank.”
After winning the 2007 RBC Royal Bank Cup, Dupont continued with Aurora for another season before moving on to become the head coach of the Gatineau
Olympiques of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.
He inherited a team already involved in the 2008-09 campaign, winners of just five of their first 20 games.
He quickly turned the club around to post the third-best winning percentage from that point on and ushered the team into the second round of the playoffs.
He spent two years with the Olympiques before returning to Junior A – he made a quick stop with the Orangeville Crushers before taking over in Trenton in
“It’s a little more involved in terms of the commitment, but it isn’t that much different,” says Dupont about coaching at the two different junior levels
However, Junior A head coaches typically also handle GM duties which is something that appeals to Dupont and admittedly part of the reason why he’s been
extremely successful with two franchises.
“Having control over not only the bench but who is on the bench is important,” he says. “And you need character kids to be successful.”
In returning to the national championship for a second time, it’s difficult to find criticism with Dupont’s philosophy or structure as a coach and
administrator. After all, his Golden Hawks – who are here for the first time as a franchise – are just one of five teams across the 131-team Canadian
Junior Hockey League to qualify for this year’s national championship.
It’s a prestigious qualification and one Dupont maintains is more difficult to attain than it looks because of the cyclical nature of junior hockey,
although he game-plans to build a championship team each season.
“Our organization is a destination point in the OJHL. At least, that’s what we’ve built it to be.”
As the regular season concluded, Trenton was ranked No. 4 in the country behind the defending RBC Cup champion Portage Terriers (MJHL), Penticton Vees
(BCHL) and Soo Thunderbirds (NOJHL), none of whom qualified for this week’s tournament.
However, Dupont is quick to point out that his Golden Hawks don’t move up the rankings by default.
“That doesn’t make us No. 1,” he says.
As a player, Dupont spent parts of six seasons in the National Hockey League, including 201 NHL games with the Chicago Blackhawks and a brief 13-game stop
with the Toronto Maple Leafs in the 1980s. It was a decent career for the former first-round draft pick (15th overall in 1980), but one of the most
impactful results of his NHL time was playing under famed coach Roger Neilson.
Dupont, a defenceman when he played, acknowledges he had some great mentors over his career, but none like Neilson – a true innovator in the game and a
Hall of Famer.
“He was arguably one of the best coaches to ever coach. I was fortunate to play for him for three years.”
It is that education in the intricacies of the hockey that likely helped pave the way for Dupont to understand what it takes to be a successful coach.
Plus, he enjoys the connection in teaching young players and watching their ascension as they progress in-season, over their careers and as people.
“I love working with youth,” says the Ottawa product. “What I’m trying to do is help them out a little bit beyond playing hockey.”
With one national title to his credit and an opportunity to win another this week, it’s only natural that those that find success at certain levels are
asked if they’re truly content in their current environment.
To his credit, Dupont doesn’t shirk that question.
“I love what I do and I’ll be doing it 10 years from now,” he says. “Winning teaches you a lot; so does losing. I’m happy right now today. Why wouldn’t I
be? But I’d always like to coach at higher level. For the right situation I would consider it.”