By MARK HUNTERDaily News Sports Reporter
Guy Charron no longer is the head coach of the Kamloops Blazers, but he couldn’t be happier that he’s still a part of the organization.
General manager Craig Bonner announced Wednesday that Dave Hunchak had signed a contract to be head coach of the WHL club, with Charron serving as an advisor to hockey operations. Hunchak had served as an associate coach under Charron for the past two seasons, during which the Blazers went 94-40-10.
Charron said he stepped back because he felt “the timing was right.”
“If I was going to take a step back,” he said, “I wanted it to be at a time when I felt the organization was in the right place.”
That it is, thanks in large part to Charron’s work over the past three-plus seasons.
Charron, a 64-year-old native of Verdun, Que., was hired by the Blazers on Nov. 23, 2009, replacing interim head coach Scott Ferguson, who served in that role for about a month after the firing of Barry Smith on Oct. 26, 2009. Charron was 144-97-20 during his time as head coach, and is tied with Don Hay for second on the franchise’s all-time list of coaching victories. Only Ken Hitchcock (291) has won more regular-season games as a Blazers head coach.
More importantly, though, Charron helped bring the franchise back to relevance in the community and respectability in the league.
Under his watch, the Blazers won the B.C. Division title in 2011-12, the first time that had happened since 2002, and also won a playoff series in 2012 — that hadn’t happened since 1999.
This season, the Blazers made it to the Western Conference final before bowing out to the Portland Winterhawks, who would go on to win the WHL title.
Unfortunately for Charron, who played 734 career NHL games and previously had served as head coach of the NHL’s Calgary Flames and Anaheim Mighty Ducks, time was starting to catch up with him. He admitted that the bus trips, which often would end at a cold arena at around 5 or 6 a.m., began wearing him down.
“Throughout the year, I was talking with my wife (Michele) and expressed that maybe it was time to start considering taking a step back,” he said. “I hoped that perhaps I could stay on and fulfill a role with the organization. I expressed this to Craig and they were very comfortable with that idea.”
With Hunchak, a former Moose Jaw Warriors head coach, waiting in the wings, the Blazers had no trouble finding a replacement. The Charron-Hunchak team hasn’t exactly been broken up — it’s more of a Hunchak-Charron pairing now.
In his new role, Charron will continue to attend practices and work with players, and also will be at home games. He will be involved in community events — he just won’t be traveling with the team anymore.
“I’ll still be busy,” he said, “just not on the road.
“I’ll be doing a lot of the same things,” he added.
What this means is that Charron still will get a chance to work in the game he loves, all while staying in the city he and Michele love.
“To fulfill a role in player development is something I always wanted to do,” he said. “Dave and I have worked together for a couple of years. We have a special relationship.
“To get to keep working with him and the players . . . it’s a win-win situation for me.”
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