Smith begins journey as Thunderbirds coachSunday, August 18, 2013 by: Brad Coccimiglio
A youth movement has been served with the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League’s Soo Thunderbirds and it isn’t on the ice.
The Thunderbirds enter the upcoming 2013-14 NOJHL season with a revamped coaching staff as former Soo Greyhounds defenceman Jordan Smith takes over the reigns held by Warren LaVoy and, in the latter stages of the 2012-13 season, GM Kevin Cain. Smith was hired by the Thunderbirds in late May and was on hand over the weekend as the Thunderbirds held their annual tryout camp.
“I’ve been waiting to get going since I took the job,” Smith said between scrimmages over the weekend. “I’m really excited about the opportunity and I can’t wait for the season to start.”
Said Cain: “This weekend in camp, you can see he’s engaged in the whole camp process. He’s got his fingers in everything. He wants to learn and he’s trying to grasp everything. For the first weekend, it’s been really good and ultimately he’s going to do a really good job.”
Smith will be joined behind the bench by former Thunderbird Ryan Maunu along with Marty Fortino, both Sault natives.
“Ryan will be able to help us in a lot of areas,” Smith said. “Ryan will run the defence but obviously him being a forward, and a playmaking forward at that, I’ll utilize him in all aspects. As well, having Marty Fortino on board, who didn’t play quite as long as Ryan, but anybody who knows Marty knows that he’s a warrior and a competitor. He’s going to be a really good guy to have there as well.”
For Cain, the young trio has shown a willingness to learn and brought some added excitement into the new season.
“Marty and Jordan go way back and they’re obviously really tight with the trust factor,” said Cain. “Ryan was an exceptional player here. It’s nice to get guys that came through the program back here. You can see that he’s excited. He really likes being here. As a group, they’re really excited and they’re really going to put a lot of work into this. I see the learning process starting already.”
For the new bench boss, development off the ice will also play a role this season.
“It’s not going to be all chalked up on wins and losses,” Smith said. “If I can benefit the players in ways away from the rink, I’d be very happy with that as well. If my past has any influence on it then that’s great. As they get to know me, I hope that they respect me. They don’t have to necessarily like but I will demand that they respect me.”
The 27-year-old Smith spent the second half of the 2012-13 season as the head coach of the Thunder Bay North Stars in the Superior League. That marks the extent of Smith’s experience as a head coach at the Jr. A level. The former Anaheim Ducks procpect, who had his professional career cut short due to an eye injury, said he always had an interest in coaching, even during his playing days.
“It definitely happened quicker than I thought it would,” Smith said of his rise to becoming a head coach. “Coaching was something that, even as a player, I always wanted to do. I was always interested in it and I felt it was something that I would get into. Obviously with my situation, it happened pretty quick.”
What can Thunderbirds fans expect out of Smith’s team this season? For those that had the opportunity to see him play, Smith plans to have a team that plays a similar style.
“(We’ll be) a team that competes every night, a team that plays hard,” Smith said. “It’s what people want to see. It’s the way I played the game and the way I tried to mold myself and that’s basically what I’m going to put into the club. The players will dictate who sticks around and their role.”