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Port Perry Lumberjacks introduce their new head coach

DAN CEARNS, The Standard

SCUGOG: The Port Perry Lumberjacks are trying to create more accountability for their players, by hiring a local Durham police officer as their next head coach.

Recently, the team announced, longtime local Durham Regional Police Service member, Ryan Connelly was hired as the next head coach. Mr. Connelly was introduced to players at a pizza party celebration, on Wednesday, May 31st.

“I’m super excited. It’s an opportunity, and there’s only so many head coaching jobs out there. When you’re given an opportunity, it’s a big responsibility, and I want to make sure I fulfill that responsibility by putting forth the best effort with the rest of our staff, and doing a good job, and making sure we have a great season this year with these boys,” Mr. Connelly said.

This past season, the team’s head coach was former NHL emergency goalie David Ayres. Lumberjacks general manager Tom Parish explained why the team decided to make a coaching change.

“Feedback from the players. They all really liked Dave, [and] thought he was a great person. They were not learning the way he wanted them to learn. So, when we did exit interviews, the common denominator was [the players] were looking for more structure, more discipline, [and] more accountability. So, we did our research, and we brought in someone we were quite confident was going to bring that.”

He also spoke about what made Mr. Connelly an attractive candidate for the role. “He’s a very high-ranking police officer. He’s a hostage negotiator, so he’s a very good communicator.

He worked in Port Perry for many years. He’s well-respected, [and] well-liked. He’s coached successful minor hockey teams all the way up. He played pro hockey; he played Junior C, and he played Junior A. He’s a real hockey guy [and] a big man. He’s a big presence with a big voice.”

In their first season, since changing their name from MoJacks to Lumberjacks, the team finished in sixth place in the Orr division and was swept in the first round of the playoffs by the Uxbridge Bruins.

“That feeling for me is something which I don’t ever want to experience again,” Mr. Parish told the players in attendance. “There’s been a ton of work put in to make the necessary improvements to make this team better.”

Mr. Connelly talked about the identity he’d like the next Lumberjacks team to adopt. “We want to make sure we’re a hard-working team, that we’re hard to play against, [and] that we’re always working as a team and working hard.”

Mr. Connelly described himself as “a player’s coach” and noted he has played on the opposite side of the Uxbridge-Port Perry rivalry, having suited up as a Bruin.

“It took me thirty-plus years, but I finally made it over to the right side,” Mr. Connelly joked.

Mr. Parish laid out the expectations for Mr. Connelly’s first season behind the bench. “Immediate impact. Ever since we hired him, he’s been very hands-on in recruitment and communication. He’s met with a lot of our returning players. We’ve had several meetings; we’re ahead of the game more than we have been in any other year.”

Assistant coach, Doug Parkin is returning to the coaching staff to take part in his second season with the team. Joining the coaching staff for the first time is assistant coach Dan McKinnon.

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