Mark Holick is making a return to the Western Hockey League as the new head coach of the Prince George Cougars.
The Cougars confirmed Holick as the 10th coach in the team's Prince George history Wednesday morning. Holick coached the Kootenay Ice from 2007-10 before making the leap to the professional ranks with the Syracuse Crunch of the American Hockey League from 2010 until January 2012. Last year he finished the season with the Anaheim Ducks affiliate in Syracuse as an alternate coach and has scouted for the Ducks for the past few months after moving to Penticton.
Holick signed on to coach the Cougars for the remainder of this season and for the next three years ending after the 2015-16 season. His tenure will begin Friday when the Everett Silvertips visit CN Centre for a weekend doubleheader. Cougars assistant coach Jason Becker will lead the team tonight against the Prince Albert Raiders. Holick is slated to meet with the Cougars players for the first time after the game.
Cougars general manager Dallas Thompson said after interviewing four potential candidates to replace Dean Clark, who was fired Tuesday after three and a half seasons as Cougars head coach, he was convinced Holick was the right man to lead the team.
"I was just very comfortable with him and the approach he wants to take with the players," said Thompson. "I think he's more of a players' coach. Certainly there will be a little more of a different attitude in the dressing room. I think he'll communicate with the players a little bit different.
"That's part of this whole thing that the message got stale and this is going to be a new and exciting message here for our guys," he added. "Practices are going to be different. Everything changes here and it's going to be more exciting.
Thompson said the change was made now and not after the season for the players' comfort.
"We didn't want to be in a situation where we send our guys home and make changes in the summer," said Thompson. "I wanted them to know what we're doing just because we're so young here. I wanted those 17- and 18-year-olds, along with the two 16-year-olds, to go home knowing what to expect and we didn't have to start right from scratch right from training camp."
In three seasons behind the Ice bench Holick produced a 120-75-0-21 record and a .604 winning percentage, earning coach of the year honours for the 2009-10 season. Holick played for the Saskatoon Blades and was drafted in the 11th round (216th) of the 1986 NHL entry draft by the Toronto Maple Leafs. He played four years professionally but never made it to the NHL.
Holick has also coached in the B.C. Hockey League with South Surrey, Vernon and Penticton and the Alberta Junior Hockey League where he coached the St. Albert/Spruce Grove Saints from 2003-06. He led the South Surrey Eagles to a Royal Bank Cup in 1997-98.