Jason Becker was witness to the ugly side of his chosen profession this week.
The assistant coach for the Prince George Cougars arrived at work Tuesday to the news the Western Hockey League club had fired head coach Dean Clark.
"[It] was a difficult day for the group but it's the game of hockey," said Becker. "I think Don Cherry said it best that coaches are hired to get fired. It's an unfortunate situation. Dean put a lot of work and time into the program here but, obviously hockey's a results-based business and we didn't get the results that we would've liked."
Clark was halfway through the fourth year of a five-year contract he signed with the Cougars in April 2009 and had compiled a 83-163-5-11 record, leading the team to the playoffs once in 2011 when they were swept in four games by the Kelowna Rockets. In December 2009 Clark gave Becker his first job in the WHL when he hired him on as an assistant.
"I have nothing but great respect for Dean," said Becker. "He's not only a good coach, but a really good person. It was an honour and privilege to work with him being his assistant. Hopefully I'll see him down the road."
Becker, who received his first taste of being a head coach a few weeks ago when he led Team Pacific to a fifth-place finish at the 2013 World Under-17 Challenge tournament in Quebec, admitted it whet his appetite for being a head coach but he was looking forward to working with new Cougars' head coach Mark Holick.
"I'm happy to be here for the rest of the season and get a chance to work with another great coach who has good success wherever he's been and, hopefully build a strong relationship with him in the next two and a half months and get the opportunity to come back again," said Becker. "I do realize that being a coach is about development, timing and the right time wasn't right now for myself. I thought about it [Tuesday] night if it was considered but I'm just happy to be here and I'm looking forward to working with Mark."
Cougars general manager Dallas Thompson confirmed Becker wasn't one of the four applicants considered to replace Clark, adding three, including Holick, had previous head coaching experience in the WHL and the other candidate had professional experience.
"I've talked to Jason all the way along here," said Thompson. "He's done a really good job for us, obviously it was a big step for him to coach the under-17 team. At some point he's going to have to go out here on his own and find a job and work his way up here. We've talked about that numerous times. He just needs to continue to move forward and not be in a hurry to get there."
Since Holick didn't arrive in Prince George until Wednesday evening Becker was allotted the opportunity to add WHL head coach to his resume for one game when the Cougars faced off with the Prince Albert Raiders.