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CHARLOTTETOWN, P.E.I. – Guy Girouard is doing what he loves.
After his hockey playing career ended, the Kapuskasing, Ont., native purchased a Sears outlet in Rockland, a suburb of Ottawa.
When a midget AA coach got suspended around Christmas time, Girouard was asked to take over. He’s been coaching ever since.
“I’m just fortunate to be able to make a living doing what I love,” the Charlottetown Islanders associate coach said.
Girouard went from midget AA to junior C to AAA squads. When the 2009 NHL draft was held in Montreal, he attended a coaching clinic. It was there he was introduced to University of Ottawa coach David Leger, who later added Girouard to his Gee-Gees staff.
Girouard was selling chemicals in the automotive industry when he was asked to jump on board with the newly formed Canadian International Hockey Academy in Rockland.
After five years working with the academy, an opportunity arose to join Jim Hulton’s staff with the Isles.
The two lived together for two years while attending York University and playing for the Lions. They stayed in touch through the years and tried to get together once a summer.
“A few times in the past there were opportunities, and we had talked about going somewhere together, (but) it never quite worked out,” Girouard said. “I felt . . . this may be my last chance of coaching at this level, so I got to jump at it.”
Girouard came to Charlottetown as the associate coach and assistant general manager in 2016.
Hulton said it was a hire based on his “second-to-none” hockey knowledge and experience.
“I think it was the body of work,” he said. “You make a lot of mistakes if you just go on friendships.”
Hulton wasn’t just looking for a coach as he needed someone to assist him on the management side after taking over as the general manager earlier in the summer.
“He had a lot experience on both sides of the leger,” he said. “We had an entire English-only speaking staff prior and it was a big issue. It was uncomfortable for some of the French kids.”
Captain Pierre-Olivier (P.O.) Joseph said having someone who speaks French is a biggest asset for the club.
“I remember when I was 16 nobody really talked in French on the coaching staff,” the Chambly, Que., native recalled. “I know (veteran Oliver Cooper) was helping me with that, but to have a coach who can do that, it’s really fun.”
Girouard will handle more of the responsibilities during the next month with Hulton in British Columbia with Hockey Canada as assistant coach for the world junior tournament.
Hulton said leaving the Island wouldn’t have been possible without the staff, which includes assistant coach Brad Mackenzie, goalie coach Paul Drew, athletic therapist Kevin Elliott and equipment manager Andrew (Spider) MacNeill.
“When you have the dual role, you have to have good people around you,” he said. “We all share the same passion for the game.”
Girouard said it won’t be as big of a transition as it could have been because Hulton involves everyone throughout the year.
“Jim gives us so much input and everything is kind of done as a team here,” he said. “We talk things through. Everybody has their responsibilities, but nobody feels that’s all they have to do. If we see something, we’re not afraid to challenge each other and I think that’s what makes it a healthy relationship.”
Need to know
Who – The associate coach and assistant general manager of the Charlottetown Islanders. He’s responsible for the defence, power play and some of the administration work.
Age – 51.
Hometown – Kapuskasing, Ont.
Playing career – Girouard left Kapuskasing, a small community 900 kilometres north of Toronto, when he was 15 years old to play major midget in North Bay. They hosted and won the Air Canada Cup, the predecessor to the Telus Cup. The defenceman played four years with the Ontario Hockey League’s Hamilton Steelhawks, four years at York University, six years in Germany and three in Oklahoma City of the Central Hockey League.
Teammates – Girouard was a teammate of Islanders head coach and general manager Jim Hulton at York. “Jim was (a) hard-working, third/fourth-line guy that would put it all on the line and do whatever the coach would ask.”
Post-season – The Islanders have gone to the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League’s semifinals in back-to-back years. “It's been awesome,” Girouard said. “The first year Brad (Mackenzie) and I were here it was kind of expected because we loaded up and had some horses. Last year was maybe more rewarding just because it wasn't expected, and everyone was picking us to finish last.”
Players – Girouard said they have been fortunate to have some great players and leaders in the room during his time in Charlottetown. “We’ll sit in here sometimes and just listen to the conversations,” he said from an office he shares with Mackenzie near the team’s dressing room. “The right things are being said by the right people at the right times. It’s not something you can teach, or you can coach, that’s just something the players naturally have.”