There will be a fresh face manning the bench for the Espanola Express come the 2020-2021 Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League season.
Well traveled and experienced as a coach and a player at high levels of the game, 38-year old Brent Hughes will take over from Dave Clancy as the new head coach in Espanola.
Among his coaching gigs, Hughes spent three seasons as an assistant with the Cape Breton Eagles of the Quebec Major Jr. Hockey League from 2016 until 2019.
Hughes told Hockey News North that he heard about the opening in Espanola from an old teammate of his, John Dean, who is now the coach of the Soo Greyhounds of the Ontario Hockey League.
From there, Hughes got in touch with Jason Rapcewicz, who is the president and general manager of the NOJHL Express.
“After talking to John (Dean), Jason (Rapcewicz) and I had a few conversations and we came to an agreement for me to come up north and coach the Espanola Express,” Hughes relayed to Hockey News North. “I am really excited for this opportunity. I have heard a lot of good things about the NOJHL and the Espanola franchise.”
Hughes has spent a lifetime in the game.
Prior to being an assistant coach with Cape Breton in the QMJHL, the Toronto native was also a player/coach overseas at the pro level for the Scotland-based Dundee Stars. Among other stops, he has also coached in the minor pro ranks and with the North York Rangers of the Ontario Jr. Hockey League.
In total, Hughes played nine years of pro hockey in North America and Europe after having suited up for the Peterborough Petes and Brampton (now North Bay) Battalion of the Ontario Hockey League.
Hughes heads to Espanola to take the helm of the small market Express, which made the playoffs in 2019-2020 for the first time since its inaugural 2015-2016 campaign.
Espanola had a record of 17-34-5 in 2019-2020 in what was the aforementioned Jason Rapcewicz’s first season as owner, president and general manager.
The Express head coaching position, now filled by Hughes, became vacant when Rapcewicz and the aforementioned Dave Clancy could not agree on terms for a new contract.
And Rapcewicz had plenty to say about the hiring of Hughes.
“Our organization is excited to confirm the hiring of Brent, who brings a wealth of knowledge for the game with him to Espanola,” Rapcewicz told Hockey News North.
“I feel like we are on the same page and have the same goals and expectations for this upcoming season. Brent is driven and motivated to help us keep building our success on and off the ice in Espanola,” Rapcewicz added.