It’s a support network. All solid teams, regardless of the level, have the necessary support network of assistant coaches that can be the difference between winning and losing, competing and not competing. For the Fredericton Red Wings, the support system is in place when it comes to assistant coaches.
Under the direction of head coach Brian Casey, the Red Wings have three assistants this season, ready to help make their mark as the Red Wings bring junior A hockey back to Fredericton as members of the Maritime Hockey League. Fredericton ramps things up for 2019-20 when training camp hits the ground running at the Grant Harvey Center on Aug. 27.
Casey, named head coach May 31 by Red Wings’ president and CEO Roger Shannon, has brought on a trio of assistant coaches to help guide the program. Andrew Connors, Jordan Hunter, and Kevin Pottle are all assistants under Casey.
Connors is certainly not a stranger to the MHL. He was an assistant coach with the former St. Stephen Aces before the franchise moved to Fredericton last spring. He was an assistant coach with perennial USPORTS champion University of New Brunswick Reds during the 2017-18 season, but a new baby boy and a focus on becoming a golf professional and technical representative for Callaway Golf Company meant Connors had to re-consider his hockey passion behind the bench. Connors left UNB last Christmas, but when the Red Wings landed in Fredericton, with fatherhood well under way and an assistant golf pro position at Kingswood Golf to boot, things simply fell into place.
“After meeting with Roger and Brian, I knew I found a great fit and I can’t wait to get started,” said Connors. “I’m going to be supporting the Red Wings in any way they need me. The MHL and Red Wings are going to be a hit and great for Fredericton.”
Connors has previous coaching experience with the St. Thomas University Tommies as an assistant from 2013-14 to 2015-16 prior to the Atlantic University Sport team folding. He would make his way to the Aces in 2016-17 to continue coaching. A UNB Dean’s List graduate in kinesiology in 2014, he worked as a strength and conditioning mentor before landing a coaching role with the Tommies. It’s been an interesting road for Connors considering he was an official in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League for four seasons and worked an under-17 world championship and USPORT nationals along the way. That experience and numerous roles, Connors said, allows for him to fit in easily with Casey.
“I’ve worked with so many great head coaches, so I don’t find it difficult at all with a new one,” he said. “I coached against Brian when he was at St. FX and we’ve worked a couple of hockey schools together already. We’ve hit it off great. I’m there as his assistant to support Brian and our management group. I’m very excited to be a part of the staff.”
He is certainly familiar with his fellow assistants. Hockey, after all, is a big city in a small world.
Connors worked with Hunter at UNB and shared bench duties with Pottle when the latter was part of the St. Thomas coaching staff. Hunter brings his skillset to the Red Wins after four years with UNB that included three USPORTS championships, one national bronze medal, two Atlantic University Sport titles and a program that won almost 90 per cent of its games at the university level. The Amherst, NS, native loves the work behind the scenes, slicing and dicing video to enhance a team or a player. It’s painstaking work.
“The desire to make a significant difference on a player and team development is what drew me to the video side of the game,” said Hunter. “Being part of a coaching staff to be the best prepared team on the ice and the most developmental team in practice through the lens of a camera is part of getting better together.”
Hunter has an extensive hockey background including time with Hockey Canada’s national women’s team through training camp and exhibition games as video coach. He has worked with former National Hockey League player Dan Cleary at hockey schools and worked with his hometown Amherst Ramblers, also part of the MHL.
He’s shown a zest for community, too, considering he spearheaded a successful Kraft Hockeyville campaign that landed a $25,000 centre ice score clock for Amherst Stadium. Hunter drew some parallels with the Red Wings and his time with UNB.
“The confidence, passion and well-rounded diversity of hockey experience with character people is what made my decision to join the Red Wings and make championships as common here as it was during my time with UNB,” Hunter said. “The people and the legacy those in the organization want to build for the inaugural season and upwards from there is what I want to be a part of in the MHL.”
Hunter will chart time on ice, shot attempts for both teams and a litany of other data that will help Casey ensure the proper players are on the ice at any given time during a game. Analysis is heavy in hockey these days. Hunter will spend an average of 40 hours a week preparing the Red Wings for MHL foes.
“My philosophy is to make our team so prepared they will know every move our opponent makes,” he said. “Simplicity is key for video. You can’t have too much, but you can’t have enough. It isn’t always easy to address players at an individual level when we have a 22-man roster. The key is knowing your team’s strengths and weaknesses and apply that to other teams by pre-scouting film.”
Home Opener weekend for the Fredericton Red Wings is September 20th/21st when they face Grand Falls Rapids and Summerside Capitals.
*Release via Fredericton Red Wings