The newest recruit to the Prince George Cougars hockey operations staff “checks off every box” of what they’re looking for.
That’s according to Head Coach and General Manager Mark Lamb after the team announced the hiring of Jason Smith, a former 15-year veteran of the NHL and was recently coached the Kelowna Rockets for three seasons.
The 45-year-old was fired by the club in October 2018 after a dismal 4-10 start, but his experience on the ice and behind the bench was part of Lamb’s decision to bring him to B.C.’s northern capital.
“He’s been a head coach at this level and had a long career in the NHL. That experience is going to be a great asset for our organization,” said Lamb in a news release.
In fact, the pair have worked with each other before.
Smith played under Lamb when he was the assistant with the Edmonton Oilers in the 2001-02 season; Craig MacTavish was the head coach.
Smith went on the captain the Oilers for five seasons, including 2005-06 when he led the team to the Stanley Cup Finals, eventually losing to the Carolina Hurricanes in seven games.
He says he’ll have a lot of confidence working under Lamb’s leadership given their previous history.
“Knowing his work ethic and seeing his commitment to Prince George and the future this team has, it’s an exciting opportunity for myself,” he said in the same statement. “I had a lot of experience learning from different coaches at the NHL level and that is one thing in coaching I want to bring to the Cougars. Young players today have their own unique way in learning and developing and you have to learn to coach to each individual’s skill set. You have to find what works best for them to grow.”
The Calgary product’s resume includes over 1,000 NHL games, the 1992-93 honour as top defenceman in the Western Hockey League (WHL), a gold medal with Canada’s World Junior team, and also helped coach with the Ottawa Senators for four years (2012 to 2016).
He led Kelowna to back-to-back 40-plus win seasons, which earned them a spot in the WHL Western Conference Final in his first year, 2016-17.