GRAND FALLS – At a press conference held Tuesday morning at the E.&P. Senechal Centre in Grand Falls, the Rapids officially announced the identity of their new head coach for the upcoming MHL season. BRAD MacKENZIE, a 26-year-old Charlottetown P.E.I. native, will take command behind the bench as he arrives to his new surroundings with an impressive coaching background.
MacKenzie spent the last three seasons as the assistant coach of the Charlottetown Islanders of the Quebec Major Junior League. He also attended the Vierumäki Sports Institute in Finland as one of three Canadians accepted to the prestigious and renowned coaching establishment. In his third year of practical term and thesis work, MacKenzie joined the UPEI Panthers in the Atlantic University ranks as an assistant coach, a position he held for two seasons. He also worked with the University of Maine women’s hockey program as a mental skills coach with the players.
At a very young age, MacKenzie seemed destined to become a coach. He was only 14 years-old when he became an instructor with the Andrews Hockey Growth Programs and started coaching there at 18. His dedication towards the program and great work ethic led him to become the executive director at Andrews. Founder Allan Andrews has even considered MacKenzie as a strong candidate to eventually become an NHL coach someday.
As a player, MacKenzie was team captain of his major midget team in Charlottetown which won the Monctonian and Island championship. Considered as an offensive defenseman, he also played in the QMJHL with the PEI Rocket and ended his playing career in 2012 as a member of the Summerside Western Capitals of the MHL.
MacKenzie mentioned during the press conference that three important elements come to mind when he talks about his coaching philosophy: passion, culture and attention to details.
“Passion comes with highs and lows and the challenges that lie ahead. We also want to create a culture and identity as we try to build a winning team both on and off the ice. We want Grand Falls to be a place where players want to come and succeed and eventually win a championship. To reach that goal, our players will have to work hard, compete and always play at their very best while remembering the important details which will make them better”, mentions the Rapids new head coach.
Besides being very passionate towards the game, MacKenzie also mentions that one of the qualities he brings to his new team is being a teacher. He wants to create a structure which will last throughout the season.
“We want a team that can defend well while putting lots of pressure on the other team. We want our players to get to the puck quickly each and every time”.
As for his young age, MacKenzie mentions that it shouldn’t be an issue.
“As long as the players know you care about them and help them get better, they will respect you”.
There were many candidates who were interested in the head coaching position, but nobody stood out more than the 26-year-old P.E.I. native.
The next process will be to find him one or two assistant coaches, which should be completed in the next few weeks.
Patrick Thibault (Grand Falls Rapids)
Photo: Studio Martine Caron