EDITOR’S NOTE: Following is a question and answer segment with Hockey News North columnist Ernest Skinner Jr. and Jamie Tardif, assistant coach of the Ontario Hockey League Soo Greyhounds.
SKINNER: Jamie, what brought you to Sault Ste. Marie at the beginning of last season and how did the process go?
TARDIF: Well, basically, it all started with my relationship with (Greyhound general manager) Kyle Raftis as we played together (with the Peterborough Petes) for two years and won an OHL championship in 2005. So that’s the way it started and near the end of my playing career, I started to think about the next chapter in my life and I happened to go watch the Soo a couple of years ago in Hamilton when they were in the finals and that’s when I initially reached out to Kyle among other GMs and the biggest thing (they wanted) was experience. The following year I decided to go do a player/coach role in the East Coast League where you get experience with video, coaching, managing kids, power plays and other things. That year was invaluable and then it all circled back to Kyle and at that time the coaching staff had graduated to the American Hockey League and there was an opening. We sat down and started the process with obviously Kyle, and then from there to John (Dean) and Jordan (Smith).
SKINNER: Having a team that is on the young side due to graduation, what are your takes on this year from what you have seen so far even though it’s very early in the 2019-2020 season? The coaching staff, generally speaking is on the younger side, do you think that is a key because you are so driven still?
TARDIF: Absolutely. Also at this point in the year you have all 20 teams in the OHL all striving for the same goal. Like everyone else, it’s going to be a process and we are going to make mistakes. We have a fairly young team but the faster we can work on details with practice and get these guys on the same page and ween out those kinks that we are going to experience with a young team, I think it will put us in a good spot.
SKINNER: What’s your take on Sault Ste. Marie, other than having played here a few games … do you have any local connections other than Kyle ?
TARDIF: Zero local connections, I have only been here previously while playing hockey for the Petes and obviously that was in and out after the game and back then it was the old Memorial Gardens. My wife and two children have made the Soo our home for now and the kids are both enrolled in school and enjoy it here. We have taken full advantage of the beautiful outdoors the Soo has to offer and love it and for the last year and a bit we have had nothing but a great experience being here.
SKINNER: In regards to what I see in Ryan O’Rourke and his obvious poise, composure, and increasing skill and maturity so far this year, what are your thoughts ?
TARDIF: I couldn’t agree with you more. Rourky, I obviously didn’t have much crossover with him last year with him being a young defencman and obviously my job working with the forwards but I think ever since training camp started he’s got a new found confidence in himself in a good way and that is something the staff has noticed. He’s also taken the bull by the horns in the locker room as well and as a second year kid that’s a lot of responsibility and with a young team we need that, whether it’s a second year guy or a fourth year guy, we’re going to need that. This year I am working with him more with him on the power play and that being my responsibility and yeah he’s been great to deal with.
PHOTO: Soo Greyhounds assistant coach Jamie Tardif.