Gardiner McDougall is exactly where you’d expect a lifelong hockey coach to be: at the rink, after practice, and ready to talk hockey.
In other words, it seems like business as usual for the longtime bench boss. Only, instead of bearing the usual red and black colors of the University of New Brunswick men’s hockey program, McDougall’s background is adorned with the black and royal blue logo of the QMJHL’s St. John Sea Dogs—hosts of the 2022 Memorial Cup, and that team. Which he is now as the club’s interim head coach has been tasked with leading the way to the top spot of the tournament.
The team’s announcement of McDougall’s temporary position in May – he would return to the Reds after this stint with the Sea Dogs – coincided with news that he would relieve first-year head coach Gordy Dwyer of his duties. Dwyer coached the club to a record of 47-17-1-3 in 2021–22, finishing second in the Maritimes Division, and third overall in the QMJHL, winning a red-hot down the stretch. Thanks for the streak. But after losing in the first round of the playoffs to the Sea Dogs, losing the fifth and final game of the series, and falling to sixth seed Rimouski Oceanic, the Sea Dogs management decided that a further coaching change would be a fresh start. the wanted. Memorial Cup.
So, McDougall got the call. He asked for a day to consider it, but ultimately the answer was clear for one of New Brunswick hockey’s most prominent names.
“You know, it’s interesting, when we evaluate our lives or where we are in our lives, we always think about things you’ve accomplished or experienced, but often, as you Live life, sometimes you see more regret and you say, ‘Wow, should I have done that?’ And this special occasion is, you know, the most prestigious tournament in Canada – certainly at the amateur level – and it has such historical value in the hockey world,” McDougall told Sportsnet last month, during his first week with the team. during and refreshed his fourth practice with his new squad. “When will you get this opportunity? I’m an hour away from St. John, I’ve lived in New Brunswick for 22 years. So, if you can help the province, it’s a duty, basically, something In ways.
“It is an incredible honor to be chosen for this responsibility.”
So, 24 hours later, with the blessings of his family and his colleagues at UNB, who encouraged him to take the reins, he called Sea Dogs GM Trevor Georgie back. his message?
“‘Okay, we’ve got to go fast here.
Taking on a major-junior team as interim head coach and attempting to guide it through the most important tournament in Canadian junior hockey is certainly a unique task – and one for which McDougall, as a longtime bench boss रूप में टूर्नामेंट की तैयारी और प्रेरणा में अच्छी तरह से वाकिफ हैं। Players are uniquely qualified for quick success.
During his two decades at the helm of the UNB men’s hockey program in Fredericton, McDougall has coached the Reds to 14 Atlantic University Sport pennants and seven national championships, has been named AUS Coach of the Year five times, and honored twice. U Sports Coach of the Year Award.
“I am really lucky that I have had lots of experiences to go to the National Championship, and this is a sharp change because you usually have a week when you win the Atlantic Championship and then wherever you are Let’s go there,” McDougall said. “I’ve been there on several occasions, luckily, and I think you always learn something whenever you go to that tournament.”
Of course, he notes, “It’s a little different at UNB because you have a team with, you know, maybe 95 drills, maybe 40 or 45 games. So you’ve seen them 135 times.”
Since taking over its current four-team tournament format in 1983, seven host clubs have won the Memorial Cup after losing their league championships – including two in the past decade: the Schawinigan Cataracts in 2012 and the Windsor Spitfires in 2017. John’s eighth to defy odds at home to help McDougall, the Sea Dogs also brought in Rocky Thompson as an assistant – he was the head coach of that Spitfire club.
McDougall is involved in the New Brunswick hockey community – as a coach, a recruiter, and simply a fan.
“I love watching Quebec Major Jr. and the Atlantic Division has been great this year. So I have had the opportunity to watch him – but, at the time, I never had any idea that you were going to be coaching him,” He says. In fact, McDougall often recruits players from the QMJHL—many of whom choose to continue their careers via the U Sports route after aging out of the major-junior system. He laughs because he Notes that he has now found the best seat in the house so that he can take a closer look at some potential raids.
In addition to coaching Reds for unique success – even this point has become synonymous with sports in New Breanswick – he has also been included in many other special events in the junior hockey landscape, including U -Sport All of Hockey Canada – सितारे बनाम विश्व जूनियर टीमें और विश्वविद्यालय खेल विश्व चैंपियनशिप।
Each tournament brings a new roster and a new timeline, but the goal remains the same: to be successful by building a solid foundation of trust first.
“That for me, in any organization, and especially here, it is building trust in your group – and trust is two-way. स्टाफ में विश्वास बनाना होगा। लेकिन मुझे लगता है कि यह उत्कृष्ट रहा है।
“The whole key here is to gain trust,” he says, adding that “trust is two-way” between the coaching staff and the players. “When you get confidence, I believe you create confidence and you create commitment. When you have confidence and commitment, I think I think you get maximum benefit from people And then you can be a high performer. And it’s a process, and we have to accelerate that process. Sometimes that process happens throughout the season. We have to fast-track it and prepare for the Memorial Cup. I will have to make my season this month.”
Taking the reins at St John is an undertaking McDougall does not take lightly – he looks forward to recognizing the work done by Dwyer, who has brought regular success to the club in this pivotal year as host.
“As a coach, in the case of gordie, you feel that it is definitely unfortunate because they have provided a great basis here. The group has really proved that they can win in a regular session. It can win in. It has it. No doubt, they were the hottest team in the second half of the Quebec Major Junior League season. The chance to win in the playoffs, you know, was less than expected. So they had the opportunity to win a few games, but it was unfortunate.”
He recognizes the challenge ahead not only for himself, but also for the group of players he is now guiding.
“They are coming out of an unfavorable situation – the most of them have faced adverse conditions. A playoff chain is adverse to losing that they were favorite; go home for a week to get their ideas together; And then they come back and the coach who coached them throughout the season is no longer there. So, it’s a lot of stuff on them,” McDougall says.
The Sea Dogs’ mission has become clear from day one at McDougall, and the road begins on Monday against the OHL champion Hamilton Bulldogs. The dates, with the WHL’s Edmonton Oil Kings and QMJHL champs, the Shawnigan Cataracts, will determine whether the road ahead is a successful one, with playoff defeats left behind, just a lesson learned.
“It should be a springboard for us,” McDougall says. “Adversity can be a tool of the wise. I’ve been lucky enough to have teams that have been quite successful, and we’ve had multiple winning streaks, and you learn a lot from those winning streaks – but when you If you lose, you learn more.
“We are going to be the only team to come into this tournament No A league champion. And so, we are the only team that can use adversity as a means to success. These other teams have faced adversity and defeats, but have not lost a series. So, we have the final adversity—we’ve been sent home, disappointed… and now we get a second chance,” he continues. want to take advantage.”