Junior A hockey coaches just don’t come any better than the peerless Marc Lafleur. To be sure, there is one thing that the 46-year old Lafleur has displayed throughout his Northern Ontario Jr. Hockey League coaching career — how to win.
Now in his ninth season as a head coach in the NOJHL, Lafleur won championships with both teams that he previously coached, namely the Kirkland Lake Gold Miners and his hometown Hearst Lumberjacks. He was coach and general manager of both of those teams.
Now in his first season as bench boss of the Powassan Voodoos, Lafleur is again showing his distinct coaching prowess.
With the NOJHL now into the month of October, Lafleur managed to lead Powassan to a 6-0-1 record in its first seven outings. The Voodoos are locked in a torrid battle for first place in the East Division of the NOJHL with the Timmins Rock and Lafleur’s old Hearst team.
The 6-0-1 start includes a standout three game road trip where the Voodoos produced a troika of triumphs with hard fought victories over the Cochrane Crunch, Hearst and Timmins.
Powassan general manager Chris Dawson, a veteran of NOJHL wars and success himself, certainly knows what he has in the hard working, hard driven Lafleur.
“Marc has always been known as one of the best, most prepared coaches in the NOJHL,” noted Dawson.
“He is knowledgeable, respected and we always — even going back to my years with the North Bay Jr. Trappers — had to go through a Lafleur coached team to win a championship,” Dawson pointed out in referring to the league title that Powassan won in 2017 as well as North Bay’s NOJHL championship in 2013.
As for the demanding, relentless Lafleur, he likes what he has seen of his youthful Powassan squad in the early going of the 2021-2022 NOJHL season.
“It has gone very well, considering we are very young,” Lafleur of the Voodoos, who boast a plethora of players who were born in either 2003, 2004 or 2005. “The learning curve has been quicker than expected.”
With a game plan firmly etched in his thoughtful hockey head, Lafleur has the same goals that he had with his previous Kirkland Lake and Hearst teams.
“As in any other year, your goal is to win the league championship through development,” he relayed.
The Lafleur formula is a strategy that has definitely worked in the past including the championship seasons, one with the Gold Miners in 2014 and the other with the Lumberjacks in 2019. Ergo, Lafleur’s pattern of preparation is unlikely to be altered, especially considering the previous success he has had behind the bench in the NOJHL.
In taking a glance back, Lafleur said he knows that asset management played a pivotal role in his teams run to two league crowns.
“A big key for both years (2014 and 2019) is that we recruited good people, on and off the ice, that were eager to improve every single day,” he noted.
That type of personnel and members of the staff, combined with a group of talented, highly skilled and hard working players that bought into Lafleur’s coaching style and philosophy paid the ultimate team dividend, in earning NOJHL championships.
No stranger to winning himself from his junior playing days as two-way center, Lafleur won a Dudley-Hewitt Cup, Central Canada Jr. A crown back in 1995 with the erstwhile Thunder Bay Flyers. Along with capturing that DHC title, he produced 34 goals, 41 assists, 75 points over 96 games and two seasons in Thunder Bay, where the Flyers competed in the United States Hockey League. His efforts as a player earned him a Division 1, National Collegiate Athletic Association scholarship to Bemidji State University in northern Minnesota, where he served as the Beavers’ team captain in his senior year and graduated with a degree in education.
Now as a head coach, Lafleur boasts an enviable NOJHL career coaching record of 265-128-28-4, which through 439 games gives him a a very respectable winning percentage of .651 behind the bench. His contributions have also earned him league accolades for his efforts.
Not only has Lafleur led two teams to league titles, he is a two time recipient of the‘Red’ McCarthy Memorial Trophy, emblematic of the NOJHL Coach of the Year. He won those awards in 2013-2014 with the Gold Miners and 2018-2019 with the Lumberjacks.
A winner through and through, Lafleur is just of many accomplished and high end coaches that the NOJHL has managed to attract over the past decade or so.