Back on the biggest stage
Nine years after guiding the Aurora Tigers to a national title, Jerome Dupont has brought the Trenton Golden Hawks to the RBC Cup
Paul Edmonds
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May 17, 2016
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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 savouring it.”

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 Dupont.

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 résumé.

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 games.

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 2011.

“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 in Canada.

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.”

For more information:

Lisa Dornan
Director, Communications
Hockey Canada
403-777-4557 / 403-510-7046 (mobile)
ldornan@hockeycanada.ca

 

Morgan Bell
Coordinator, Media Relations
Hockey Canada
403-284-6427
mbell@hockeycanada.ca

 

Esther Madziya
Coordinator, Media Relations
Hockey Canada
403-284-6484
emadziya@hockeycanada.ca

 

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