Sault native Jason Fortier has taken an NCAA coaching job.
Fortier, who spent the 2020-21 hockey season as head coach of the North American Hockey League’s Odessa Jackalopes, has been named an assistant coach with the University of Maine Black Bears in Hockey East.
Fortier joins the staff of newly-named head coach Ben Barr, who was hired to lead Maine’s men’s hockey program in May.
"I am excited to get started and thrilled to be a member of the Black Bears program," Fortier said in a prepared statement. "Thanks to Coach Barr for believing in me and allowing me the chance to join his staff. Coach Barr has made an impressive impact in the programs he has been involved in and his track record amongst former players is something that makes this such a great opportunity.”
Barr had high praise for Fortier and what he brings to the program.
“Jason has been a winner at every program he has worked with,” Barr said. “During my time as a young assistant at Unio College, Jason was one of the first junior coaches I met. He was always easy to approach, honest, and his players improved significantly under his guidance. He has won championships in multiple junior leagues and will be an integral part of our culture. We are extremely fortunate to add Jason to the Black Bear Hockey family. Our student-athletes will benefit tremendously from having him as a mentor."
In a December interview with SooToday, Fortier discussed the various paths his coaching career has taken.
“My purpose is I want to become a better coach all the time,” Fortier said. “I want to evolve; I want to change.”
Fortier also credited his playing experiences and how it helped him as a coach.
“I was a bit of a wild card some nights. I had discipline from people. Having discipline for players right now, and I don’t mean discipline on the ice, we’re talking about discipline in all areas is something I believe in,” Fortier said.
“It helps them, and it creates unity amongst your team when everyone is equal. Your best player doesn’t get away with something that your weakest player won’t. It doesn’t mean you’re not going to allow your top-end guys to be creative. It just means that there are some things that are going to be negotiable, and some things aren’t. After coaching for the time I have, it’s really important for me to try to create a culture first. Anytime I go somewhere, it’s a bit of a wrecking crew for the first year because you’re trying to create a culture. You’re trying to create an identity and you’re trying to have people buy it but buy in not on the purpose of pats on the back. It’s more about ‘I feel good about working hard today. I feel good about what we’ve done. It’s for the guy beside me in the locker room and not for the coach.’ A lot of guys say it, but I don’t know how many guys truly believe that.”
The 46-year-old’s coaching resume includes time in the British Columbia Hockey League with the Coquitlam Express prior to joining Odessa.
Fortier joined the Express midway through the 2017-18 season as head coach and assistant general manager before spending two full seasons as general manager and head coach in Coquitlam.
Fortier joined Coquitlam after one season as an assistant coach with the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League’s Rouyn-Noranda Huskies (2015-16) and as an associate coach with the Ontario Hockey League’s Kitchener Rangers (2016-17).