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Prince George Cougars stitch in new position for former associate coach

Shuffling continues with Steve O’Rourke’s (short) return to WHL club

The Prince George Cougars’ coaching staff has seen several changes this off-season and their latest announcement may be a surprise to some.

Steve O’Rourke, the Cats’ associate coach of the last three seasons, originally had not renewed his contract with the Western Hockey League (WHL) franchise, as per Mark Lamb when he was unveiled as the new Head Coach in July in addition to his General Managing role.

This freed up some bankroll for the hiring of long-time NHLer Jason Smith as Lamb’s new go-to guy on the bench.

But, O’Rourke is actually sticking around in the northern capital as Prince George’s new director of player development after the team parted ways with Nick Drazenovic, who is now with the Spruce Kings as their skills and development coach.

“As an organization, we’re committed in providing leadership and support in hockey development in the region,” said Coach Lamb in a news release. “We feel Steve’s experience in skill development makes him the perfect fit for this role within our team and hockey community in northern B.C.” 

And it’s not just with the Cougars’ players and prospects O’Rourke will be closely skating with.

The 44-year-old will also have a leading role in helping local players develop through clinics, part of the new six-team business model by the Cariboo Cougars, B.C. Hockey, and the Prince George Minor Hockey Association (PGMHA).

“We just don’t want this to benefit us,” said Lamb at the Cariboo Cougars’ conference on Aug. 9. “We want this to benefit every group, and its all about development. In order for us to do a good job, we need a lot of eyes, we need a lot of help. There’s a lot of good hockey minds, but I don’t think the Prince George Cougars have done a real good job at getting a lot of players from the north. We get a lot of players from all over, but there are still players we haven’t seen. With this relationship, we don’t want to leave any stone unturned.”

O’Rourke will also be assisting one of the three Canadian team’s selected to compete in the 2019 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge in November.

The Prince George Cougars’ season starts Sept. 20 at the CN Centre against the Vancouver Giants.