KIJHL alum Rigby having success with WHL’s Cougars

Photo courtesy of Carter Rigby


Carter Rigby is in his second season as an assistant coach with the WHL’s Prince George Cougars. Rigby joined the Cougars after being the head coach-GM of the Osoyoos Coyotes and before that was an assistant coach with the Summerland Steam. His junior hockey career began with the Cougars, where he played seven games from 2009-11, then was traded to the Rockets. Rigby also played for the Coyotes.

Rigby, who turned 30 yesterday, is part of a Cougars staff that includes head coach-GM Mark Lamb and associate coach Jim Playfair. In this Q&A, Rigby talks about his experience with the Cougars, who have been ranked among the best teams in the CHL this season. Currently they are No. 6. 

This article has been edited for length and clarity.


KIJHL: Carter, what has the experience been like to coach with the PG Cougars and in the WHL?

CR: It’s been an eye-opener, especially seeing the talent at this level on a day-to-day basis. I played in the league for four years (2011-15/Kelowna Rockets-Swift Current Broncos), and the game has changed a lot. It was nice to get my feet soaked in the KIJHL and it’s been really nice to make this jump at the highest level of North American junior hockey. It’s been a ton of fun, a lot of learning and growth as a person.”


KIJHL: Touch on your growth as a coach and things that have been eye-opening to you?

CR: It’s the day-to-day demand and really being a full-time coach. There is a lot of time to do video, work with players on the ice every day. The hours and time it takes at this level to be prepared is a big thing, plus there is travel and the closest opponent is six hours.


KIJHL: What are some of your responsibilities as an assistant coach?

CR: Last year I was feeling it out. I was on the bench every game and I’m really thankful for Mark to give me the opportunity. This year I ran the defenceman when Jim Playfair was gone for the Spengler Cup. Normally on a day-to-day basis I’m up front with the forwards, doing a lot of corrections, which allows Mark to worry about lines, matches and situational stuff. He can trust me when a player comes off the ice to do the teaching aspect of things between shifts or video work.

This year I took over the billet role dealing with them each day. I’m doing a lot of travel and food planning. It’s a big job, especially with how much we are on the road. I’m also a sounding board for the players, being the younger coach, at times it’s maybe easier for players to come to me and talk about their experiences knowing I have played in the league and have gone through it. I also played for Mark in Swift Current.


KIJHL: What has it been like for you to contribute to the success of the team, especially as it’s among the best in the CHL this season?

CR: Last year we made the second round for the first time in 16 years, which was huge for the group, city and ownership. Giving those players a chance last year to win a playoff round is massive. A lot of times in junior hockey you could go your whole career without winning a round. That has led to our success big time. 

Jim Playfair has really honed down on our defensive side and it’s great. Having winning habits is important. Mark has won a Stanley Cup (1989-90 with the Edmonton Oilers), Jim has been to the Stanley Cup Final and has won multiple championships at different levels. It’s key to surround yourself with winners and that’s what we’re doing here – building a winning culture.


KIJHL: The team has a KIJHL alum in Zac Funk, talk about what’s helping him have such a great season, and one of the best point producers?

CR: We got Zac last year at the trade deadline and he was a good role player for us that had offence. He’s got a knack for the net (53 goals in 56 games as of Tuesday). It’s his last year of junior hockey and he really wanted to come in determined, so he had a really good offseason, which set him up for success. The first three or four months he was leading the whole CHL in points, it goes back to his summer. He leads the Cougars with 95 points in 56 games.

He’s a goal-scorer that scores in bunches and has seven hat-tricks this year. From the top of the circles down, I don’t think there is a player better than Zac at finding the back of the net. He’s a physical kid, an emotional player. He can fight, hit. He does a bit of everything and has done a good job of taking care of his body.

He’s caught the attention of NHL scouts and I wouldn’t be shocked if he signs an NHL deal by the end of the season. We talk to NHL scouts on a daily basis.