BY FRASER RODGERS
Prince George Cougars
The Prince George Cougars Hockey Club has hired Jason Smith as the team’s associate coach.
Smith brings a wealth of experience to B.C.’s Northern Capital, having played over 1,000 games in the NHL in a career that spanned 15 seasons. He was most recently the head coach of the Kelowna Rockets for parts of three seasons.
“I am thrilled that we could bring on Jason, he checks off every box of what we were looking for in an Associate Coach,” said Cougars’ General Manager and Head Coach Mark Lamb. “He’s been a head coach at this level and had a long career in the NHL. That experience is going to be a great asset for our organization.”
Smith, 45, had a distinguished playing career at both the junior and professional level. He played three seasons with the Regina Pats in the Western Hockey League (WHL), winning the Bill Hunter Trophy as the WHL’s Top Defenceman in the 1992-1993 season. He also won a gold medal with Canada’s National Junior Team that year. He then went onto play for the New Jersey Devils, Toronto Maple Leafs, Edmonton Oilers, Philadelphia Flyers and Ottawa Senators in the NHL. He is a former captain of both the Oilers and Flyers.
After he retired at the end of the 2008-2009 season, the Calgary, AB native spent four seasons in the Senators organization from 2012 to 2016 and was the team’s assistant coach in his last two seasons. Prior to the start of the 2016-2017 season, he was named the Rockets’ head coach, and led them to back-to-back 40-plus win seasons that included a trip to the WHL’s Western Conference Final in his first year behind Kelowna’s bench.
“Mark and I have known each other for quite some time, going back to when I was still playing, and I have a lot of confidence in our relationship. Knowing his work ethic and seeing his commitment to Prince George and the future this team has, it’s an exciting opportunity for myself,” stated Smith.
Smith says he looks forward to connecting with and teaching the Cougars young stable of players, “I had a lot of experience learning from different coaches at the NHL level and that is one thing in coaching I want to bring to the Cougars. Young players today have their own unique way in learning and developing and you have to learn to coach to each individual’s skill set. You have to find what works best for them to grow.”
Smith and Cougars’ General Manager & Head Coach Mark Lamb have worked together before. Smith played under Lamb when he was an Assistant Coach with the Oilers in the 2001-2002 season.