While the Soo Greyhounds prepared for a game against the Sudbury Wolves last week, SooToday dropped by GFL Memorial Gardens to present complimentary SooToday coffee mugs to the team’s coaching staff as a sign of appreciation for our hometown OHL hockey club.
Greyhounds Assistant Coach Jamie Tardif, a Niagara-region native, is in his first full year of coaching after retiring as a player-coach in pro hockey.
Tardif played in the AHL for nine seasons, another three in Germany.
“I love my job. I love coming to the rink every day,” Tardif said.
“I remember coming to the Sault when I played for the Peterborough Petes. This is something special, it’s a great community here. Myself, my wife and two kids are happy to be a part of it.”
“So far we’ve gotten off to a pretty good start here,” Tardif said of his first season with the Hounds, adding he’s looking forward to his future with the club.
John Dean, in his first year as Greyhounds head coach, hails from Toronto.
Stating he’s been on skates since he was four years old, Dean played pro hockey in the Central Hockey League with the Amarillo Gorillas and has been involved in coaching for the past 12 years.
“I love the Sault,” Dean said.
“I love the people, I love the people in the Hounds organization. Everyone here’s treated me like gold and I’ve really enjoyed my time here so far.”
“We’re halfway through the year, so I don’t know if I can talk about my most rewarding experience yet as Hounds coach, but come talk to me after the playoffs,” Dean grinned.
Jordan Smith, an associate coach and Sault native, has been involved in hockey since the age of five.
Smith played for the Hounds from 2001 to 2005 before moving on to play with the American Hockey League’s Portland Pirates.
Smith, who has been coaching for the past eight years, moving home after coaching with the Sudbury Wolves, said “it’s really enjoyable (to be back in the Sault). I love it.”
“The Greyhounds are near and dear to a lot of people in the community. We’re supported extremely well and it’s nice to see friends and families and neighbours, that close knit group that comes out to support you.”
“For me, the most rewarding experience has been able to come home and help coach the team. Having played here with the Hounds, grown up here playing minor hockey, it means a lot to come back and help coach the team,” Smith said.
As reported earlier by SooToday, the Hounds organization is a good corporate citizen, having donated over $10,000 to Royal Canadian Legion Branch 25’s 2018 Poppy Campaign, Hounds players often taking part in community events.
“We’re always giving back. We were at Bon Soo Bum Slides, we’re always doing different things in the community and you really feel the appreciation from people in the community when you go to those events,” Smith said.
The Greyhounds can trace their roots to 1919, first playing in the Upper Peninsula League before becoming a part of the Northern Ontario Hockey Association in the early 1920s.
That championship winning team folded in 1926.
A junior Greyhounds team started up in 1929 in the Northern Ontario Junior League, winning five championships, its story coming to an end when the club’s Gouin Street Arena was destroyed by fire in 1945.
A senior Greyhounds team came into being in 1948, first playing out of Sault Michigan’s Pullar Stadium before moving into the Memorial Gardens in 1949.
The Hounds won the NOHA championship four times before folding in 1959.
The modern era Soo Greyhounds hockey team was launched in 1962, playing in the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League (then the OHL in 1972), Angelo Bumbacco and Pat Esposito among the team’s founders.
Apart from having a young, phenomenal Wayne Gretzky setting Greyhounds team records in 1977-78 before he went on to his legendary NHL career, the team has produced an incredibly long list of NHL players over the years, including Paul Coffey, Tony Esposito, Ron Francis and Joe Thornton, along with notable coaches such as Craig Hartsburg and Ted Nolan, the team winning the Memorial Cup under Nolan in 1993.