Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 21/6/2010 (4135 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.
You know how you get to trying to remember a name, but can't -- even though you can picture the face -- and it starts to drive you crazy?
Well, it happened as the Manitoba Moose were in the midst of trotting out new head coach Claude Noel on Monday morning, and it dawned on your humble agent what a prestigious gig the position has become in the hockey world.
That's when I thought of him, the first-ever Moose head coach. What was his name, Jean Something?
So I turned to longtime Moose bird dog Bruce Southern, who is always angling to get his name in the paper (wink), and asked: "Lefty, who was that first coach you guys had? The French Canadian? The crazy one."
As soon as Southern blurted out the words, Jean Perron, the guy standing beside him didn't miss a beat.
"January 4th, 6 p.m.," Mark Chipman sighed: The exact date and time Perron was fired. Didn't even make it through the Moose inaugural AHL season in 1996-1997. So it was that former Winnipeg Jet Randy Carlyle unceremoniously began a professional coaching career that led, a few years down the road, to a Stanley Cup behind the bench of the Anaheim Ducks.
You see, while the Moose were unveiling their sixth head coach in franchise history in Noel, it was kinda neat to cast a glance around at a press conference flush with media to understand how much more in demand the job of AHL Moose head coach at the MTS Centre was in 2010, compared to the IHL Moose job at the old Arena held briefly by Perron, who's never coached since.
When Moose GM Craig Heisinger was asked for a ballpark estimate of interest in the position, he replied: "Lots."
But it's not like Noel -- a career coach with oodles of AHL success in Milwaukee and NHL experience the last three seasons as an assistant with the Columbus Blue Jackets -- was standing around like a wallflower. Noel had standing offers to be head coaches elsewhere in the AHL. He had offers to be an assistant coach in the NHL.
For what it's worth, Noel could be seen as a more seasoned version of Arniel. For instance, when the Moose hired Perron back in 1996, the 54-year-old Noel had just landed his first IHL head coaching job with Michigan K-Wings. He's a rock-solid career coach with a 183-111-26 AHL record.
Given that both parties had other options, it speaks volumes that Noel landed with the Moose. Sure, it must have something to do with the NHL-like environment of the Moose franchise.
It might have to do with the fact that the last three Moose head coaches -- Carlyle, Alain Vigneault and Scott Arniel -- are all gainfully employed in the NHL. Indeed, Arniel landed the Blue Jacket job that Noel held last season on an interim basis (10-8-6).
So the transitional flow of the Moose AHL franchise continues, just as it has done from way back under Perron. The evolution continues. A new head coach who will assume control of a team that will lose the services of its best player, netminder Cory Schneider, and might have seen the last of the ageless Mike Keane, yet another in a succession of players -- Jimmy Roy, Brian Chapman -- who came to become the face and identity of the franchise.
That's why it's always reassuring at such festive introductions to look around the room and spot the guy who looks the most uncomfortable. That would be Heisinger, the backbone of this franchise and the reason nobody gets too nervous when change is once again afoot.
"I don't even know how to state how important it is," Chipman said, when asked about Heisinger's furniture-like presence in the Moose front office.
"Frankly, couldn't do it, wouldn't want to do it without that kind of continuity. He's absolutely -- call it whatever you want -- the glue or the core (of the franchise). So we've felt fortunate after all of these years that he's grown into the executive that he is."
Sure, that's been said before of Heisinger. Sometimes, you can begin to take someone like that for granted, expect they'll be around forever. For example, Chipman gets a call from Heisinger that Arniel has landed his first NHL head coaching gig, and he thinks, "Great! That's fantastic for Arnie and his family."
But what about the call -- someday, maybe -- that Heisinger may be leaving the nest?
"That," Chipman said, "would be a tough call. Replacing him would be different."
Hey, everybody is replacable. Carlyle was, Vigneault was, Arniel will be. Same goes for the players.
It's just that eventually in this Bulldog eat Moose world, you learn a hard lesson: Some folks are more replacable than others.
Godspeed, Jean Perron, wherever you are.
Randy Turner spent much of his journalistic career on the road. A lot of roads. Dirt roads, snow-packed roads, U.S. interstates and foreign highways. In other words, he got a lot of kilometres on the odometer, if you know what we mean.