Ray Tremblay initially committed to coaching another season in the Federal Prospects Hockey League (FPHL).
He was supposed to head to Elmira, New York, to coach the Enforcers, but the COVID-19 pandemic changed things.
Instead, the Westbank, B.C. native stayed in Canada and was named the first head coach-GM of the Lake Cowichan Kraken, an expansion team in the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League. Tremblay, a former Sicamous Eagle and Beaver Valley Nitehawk, loves living in the community of 6,500, which includes 3,500 in its surrounding area.
“I think it’s going to be fun to work with some younger guys for this season,” says Tremblay, 35, who signed on for two seasons.
The former forward is looking to make the Kraken and the Town of Lake Cowichan a destination spot for junior hockey.
“We want to create a program here that kids from all over want to come to because they can see that it’s a fantastic place to play,” says Tremblay. “It’s a great town and they will have the ability to reach their hockey goals and to develop and move up. We’re looking to be a premiere organization.”
Tremblay looks to build something Lake Cowichan can be proud of in its first season and believes they can be a sense of pride for the community.
“Our goal this year is to put a stamp on the league and compete and come back as a force in year two,” he says.
Early in Tremblay’s coaching career, his teams have proven to be difficult to play against. He expects it will be no different with the Kraken. Tremblay is still learning about the type of coach he sees himself as, but players appreciate his honest, straightforward approach. It’s important to him to create trust with his players because as he says, when everyone is buying in, “that’s when you get something special and you get more out of your players.”
His experience in the FPHL will help, but he dealt with a different age group and skill level in players. The FPHL is dedicated to the growth of professional hockey at the Class A level and creating a developmental ground not only for elite hockey players, but coaches and front office staff as well. The FPHL has promoted and helped advance over 500 players to various leagues including the AHL, ECHL, SPHL, and European leagues.
Having worked with players after their junior and college careers allowed Tremblay to see their tendencies. He feels that will lend itself well to working with some of the younger players.
Tremblay also learned from the coaches he had with the Eagles and Nitehawks. His time with the Nitehawks was special because it’s where he really grew as a player because of how people such as Hank Deadmarsh, Paul Matteucci and Terry Jones do things.
“Terry Jones is a great coach and a great guy,” says Tremblay, who had 83 points in 86 regular season games with the Nitehawks. “Year in, year out, they are turning out great hockey players and great people. And Hank Deadmarsh at the time, he was with the club as well too. You grow when you are there. I took that with me everywhere I went.”
Tremblay learned many things from Jones, including accountability, honesty, work ethic and taking a professional approach.
Tremblay played 130 regular season and 16 playoff games in the KIJHL, which created fond memories for him. Following the KIJHL, he played in the National Collegiate Athletic Association Division III, as well as playing in France and the FPHL.
Tremblay gained confidence from being in the KIJHL and captaining the Nitehawks in his final season is his best memory.
“It’s a fantastic league. That experience of traveling around the province as a young guy playing against older guys, as an older guy playing against younger guys, I was lucky enough to get an opportunity to move on to the next level,” says Tremblay. “As an experience as a whole, it was a fantastic time. It was really fun.”