Brad MacKenzie said his P.E.I.-dominated coaching staff with the Grand Falls Rapids is nothing more than coincidence.
“It wasn’t by design to be honest,” MacKenzie told the Journal Pioneer in a phone interview. “When I got the job I wasn’t thinking I have to get a couple of P.E.I. guys in here.”
The head coach from Charlottetown recently named Borden-Carleton native Nich Tremere and former Summerside D. Alex MacDonald Ford Western Capitals forward Morgan MacDonald of Little Pond as assistant coaches. Paul Drew of Cornwall has also been appointed as a goaltending consultant.
“It’s interesting the way it worked out for sure,” said Tremere, 29. “We are all pretty excited and are all on board with what we are trying to do.”
Tremere is entering his third season with the organization. His first was the franchise’s final year in Woodstock, N.B., where Tremere played 165 regular-season and playoff games over three seasons on the Slammers’ blue-line from 2008-09 to 2010-11. He moved to Grand Falls with the team for the 2018-19 campaign.
“Nich is a guy I didn’t know beforehand at all,” said MacKenzie. “When I got the job he was one of the first guys the people in the inner circle here told me I should reach out to as a potential candidate.
“Once I did that, I realized there were some mutual connections and did some homework on him, and have obviously met him a few times now. Nich is going to be a good fit and a familiar face around Grand Falls.”
Tremere, who will run the team’s defence and penalty kill, said he relishes the opportunity to continue developing as a coach. He said working the last two seasons under former NHLer Sandy McCarthy, who is now an assistant coach with the Campbellton Tigers, was a great opportunity.
“There are a ton of things I have learned from him and other people who have been involved around the team,” said Tremere. “You are always learning and growing.”
Tremere says Grand Falls is a great place to do just that.
“It’s an exciting time for hockey in Grand Falls,” said Tremere. “One thing about the community up there in Grand Falls is that they are passionate about hockey and passionate about their team.
“That shows right through, whether it’s the fans, volunteers, staff, board of directors.”
MacDonald had been eying a transition to coaching before his playing career ended following three seasons with the Capitals. He was captain for his final year – 2017-18.
“For me it’s go in and learn as much as I can and help teach as much as I can,” said MacDonald, 22.
MacKenzie and MacDonald have worked together for a number of years at Andrews Hockey Growth Programs in Charlottetown.
“I was thinking Morgan is going to be a great coach someday and I know he already is one at the hockey school and it’s what he wants to do,” said MacKenzie. “Through the summer we had some conversations about what he wanted to do next and what the next chapter of his life is and together we came up with the idea of having him come up to Grand Falls and get started in the coaching world that way.”
MacDonald will assist MacKenzie with the forwards and will work in player development.
“We are going to put a player development program in place and Morgan will head that up,” said MacKenzie. “He has some experience and was doing kinesiology in school, so he is going to do some fitness training and put the program in place for the boys there.”
MacDonald said he welcomed taking on a leadership role with the Caps and he feels he can relate well to the players and understand their perspectives.
“Everyone wants to be treated with respect and you want to be approachable for the guys and not be someone that they do not want to talk to,” said MacDonald. “You want to relate to them, want them to be able to ask questions and find ways to work through situations and help them improve, as well as help our team improve.”
MacKenzie noted Drew will remain based on P.E.I., where he is the goaltending coaching for the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League’s Charlottetown Islanders and works for Andrews Hockey.
“Paul is going to make a few trips during the year to provide a program for our goaltenders and we have guy here who will work with the goaltenders on a day-to-day basis, but Paul will put the program in place,” said MacKenzie.
The Rapids open training camp Wednesday.