He has been a player and a coach — and been on national championship teams as both — at the Division 1, National Collegiate Athletic Association level. Suffice to say that Doug Laprade, who is in his first season as head coach of the Soo Eagles of the Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League, knows a good level of the game when he sees it.
Laprade, who was part of NCAA championship teams as both a player and assistant coach with the Lake Superior State Lakers, has plenty of good to say about the caliber of play in the 12-team NOJHL.
“I watched a lot of junior hockey when I was coaching, scouting and recruiting for Lake State,” Laprade began, “and I still do. And from I saw then and from what I see now as coach of the Soo Eagles, the NOJHL is right up there with the best tier 2, junior A hockey leagues in both Canada and the United States.”
The even-mannered Laprade, while guesting on a recent edition of the Hockey North Show, which airs on Tuesdays at 5 p.m. on Sault Ste. Marie radio station ESPN 1400, pointed out the number of players who have already been developed for — and are currently being prepped for — teams in the major junior, Ontario Hockey League.
“You look at the number of players that the NOJHL has moved on to the OHL and the (Division 3) NCAA level as examples and that is an indicator right there as to how good our league is,” Laprade noted.
The level of coaching in the NOJHL also stands out to Laprade.
“I remember my first game as coach of the Eagles was against the Soo Thunderbirds and I remember thinking to myself what a good team they are and how well coached they are,” Laprade relayed. “Now that I have been around for more than half a season I have seen first hand how many good teams and so many good coaches there are in the NOJHL.”
A product of Thunder Bay, Ontario, the 50-year-old Laprade has resided in the Michigan Soo since he first arrived on scholarship to play Division 1 hockey at Lake Superior State in 1987.
As a hard-driven, two-way right winger, Laprade was part of the Lakers national championship team of 1988 under mercurial head coach Frank Anzalone. Laprade also became a National Hockey League draft pick of the Los Angeles Kings in 1988.
In 1992, as a volunteer assistant coach, Laprade was part of another national championship team at Lake Superior State under esteemed bench boss Jeff Jackson, who is now the head coach of the NCAA powerhouse Notre Dame Fighting Irish.
Laprade had a later, three-year stint at Lake Superior State as an assistant coach under former head coach Jim Roque.
As a head coach at another level, Laprade has a winning past that includes a four-year run with the Sault High Blue Devils in which he amassed a standout, overall record of 70-32-7.
His other credentials include being a Level 4 instructor for USA Hockey coaching clinics.
And now, as head coach of the NOJHL Eagles, Laprade has a blossoming, rookie-laden team prepping for the stretch run of the regular season and then the playoffs.