By Jamie Neugebauer
North York Rangers Junior ‘A’ head coach John Dean has accepted the position of assistant coach with the North Bay Battalion of the Ontario Hockey League, the club announced Monday.
Dean, 33, spent five years with the Rangers, with his greatest success coming in the 2012-13 season when he guided the club to the Ontario Junior Hockey League’s Southwest Conference Final.
According to the Don Mills native, the move is equal parts exciting and difficult.
“Obviously I’m excited,” he said.
“I’m looking forward to this opportunity, but it’s obviously bittersweet to leave the boys and the club behind. This club is something I’ve been working on for five years, with so many great guys to work with, and I feel like together we’ve made a pretty nice program here at North York. It’s tough to leave the guys, but at the same time it’s exciting to start something new.”
Dean’s hiring makes sense for the Battalion, who moved to North Bay from Brampton last year, as he played parts of four seasons with the old North Bay Centennials of the OHL from 1997 to 2001 (the club would move on to Saginaw, Mich. in 2002).
“Yeah I love the city, North Bay is unbelievable,” Dean said.
“It’s a lot of fun, the people are great and I have really gotten used to small-town living since I was 16 playing there and then professionally in Amarillo, Texas. I love the people, the hospitality and the city itself and I am excited to go see the rejuvenated hockey town for sure.”
Assistant coach Mark Joslin will step in immediately as head coach for the upcoming 2014-15 season.
Far and away, the largest emotion among the players appears to be a sense of happiness for Dean’s success, and a comfort with Joslin taking the reigns.
“To a man the boys are happy for Deaner moving up,” said Matthew Whittaker, a veteran forward entering his third year with the club.
“You see a lot of players move on from North York so it’s great to see a coach move on to the OHL. It’s a great opportunity for him, North Bay has a great program and we wish him nothing but the best.
“In terms of Joslin, we’re all really used to him. He’s a really good guy and he knows a lot about hockey and all the boys respect him. All in all it won’t really be that huge of an adjustment, Joslin and Dean saw to eye to eye on a lot of things. We know he expects and demands the best out of us and he really does get the best out of everybody. I’m sure the new guys will really enjoy playing under Mark as well.”
The Battalion were the Eastern Conference champions in the OHL last year, falling to the eventual Memorial Cup runners-up Guelph Storm in the finals. Their head coach, Stan Butler, is one of the most respected, long-standing bench bosses in the Canadian Hockey League.
“I’m just excited to work with fantastic hockey players and coaches that know a lot and learn from them and offer my two cents,” Dean said.
“I will definitely learn my roles and responsibilities as I go, but I am assuming I’ll be ding a lot of game tape, game prep, probably touch on some special teams and just help the guys after practice. Most importantly, I’ll be there to help deliver the message from Stan Butler on down.”