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Patience pays off for new Halifax Mooseheads head coach

Jim Midgley bided his time after Dominique Ducharme left at the end of the 2015-16 season and Andre Tourigny, with some NHL time on his resume, took over.
New Halifax Mooseheads head coach Jim Midgley, seen here at Cole Harbour Place, has been a good foot soldier in the Halifax Mooseheads organization for several years. (TED PRITCHARD / Local Xpress)

Jim Midgley could have taken his puck and gone home.

A good foot soldier in the Halifax Mooseheads organization for several years, including the Memorial Cup year in 2013, Midgley wanted to become the head coach when Dominique Ducharme left at the end of the 2015-16 season.

But he didn't get the job. Andre Tourigny, with some NHL time on his resume, did.

But Midgley, a native of Townsend, Ont., bided his time, returning to his duties as an assistant coach.

"I knew I wasn't going anywhere," he said in a recent interview.

His patience was rewarded.

The wheels turned quickly in the off-season with a surprise announcement that Tourigny was leaving — after the first year of five-year contract — to join the Ottawa 67s. Only a day later, the 39-year-old Midgley was named the 10th head coach in Halifax franchise history.

The months until training camp have dwindled to weeks. The Mooseheads will begin anew with a rookie tournament in two weeks.

"That's hockey," the former Saint Mary's Huskies forward said of Tourigny's hiring. "That's the business I'm in. I love Halifax. I came here in 1998 and this is going to be my 20th year being in the Maritimes. I was in Saint John for a four-year stint.

"But when (Saint Mary's coach) Trevor Stienburg recruited me in 1998, he said, 'You might never leave here.' There's where it's coming to right now."

Midgley will never forget his inauspicious first night in Halifax. It coincided with the crash of Swissair 111, which killed 229 people near Peggys Cove.

"It's been an interesting 20 years with how it has unfolded. I remember going to Mooseheads games when I first got here. Now it's the dream job."

Midgley played for North Bay and Belleville in the OHL, scoring a career-best 19 goals in his rookie season. He moved on to the Huskies, wrapping up in 2002.

His coaching stops included a stint as an assistant to Darren Burns at Acadia. After his run in Saint John, he joined the Mooseheads in 2011-12.

He was a teenager when he arrived in the region, absorbing something from all his teammates and coaches along the way. All the while he was putting down roots.

"People like to say that I am a Maritimer now and I can probably say that I am," he said. "I love it here. It's my second home for sure. My wife is in the RCMP here. It's worked out really well for us."

midgley2Jim Midgley's Mooseheads won't be dull, if he has his way. He's preparing a two-way attacking team, opening training camp with a rookie tournament in two weeks. (TED PRITCHARD / Local Xpress)

It's great to be named a QMJHL coach, but the pressure and expectations increase with the job title. Halifax got back into the post-season last year after missing the year before and will look to improve again with a huge crop of young talent that includes the 2016 draft class starring Benoit Olivier-Groulx, Truro's Jared McIsaac and Alexis Gravel.

"I'm still going to have strong relationships with the group of guys," he said. "I think in any sport the assistant coaches are a little closer to the players and I'm not going to change who I am as a person.

"As a (head) coach, there are more major decisions that have to be made. I know that and I'm ready for that. I'm looking forward to those things"

He learned a great deal from Ducharme and Tourigny, he said. "I'll take different things from both of them and put my own spin on things."

Having Stienburg and Burns around has been a big plus, as well. "I've learned a lot from both of those guys. I've got lots of resources here."

Midgley's Mooseheads won't be dull, if he has his way. The addition of Czech star Filip Zadina, whose scoring will be used to offset the anticipated loss of Nico Hischier to the New Jersey Devils in the NHL draft, won't hurt.

"I want to be an attacking team on both sides of the puck. In the D-zone, I want to move the puck quick. Offensively, I want to be an attacking team that gets pucks to the net. That's where the new game is in terms of the NHL.

"You look at Nashville and Pittsburgh, even the final four, in the NHL playoffs and it was outstanding hockey. It was fast, north-south hockey."

The Mooseheads appear to be a team on the rise, which makes it a great time to be a new head coach.

"We're still young," said Midgley. "I think we gained a ton of experience with our young guys last year. Rouyn-Noranda was a good team that went to the Memorial Cup the year before. It was a real good series. There were a lot of things our guys can take from that on what it takes to win.

"We still have (Maxime) Fortier coming back and he's a top-10 scorer in the league. You need those guys, but our young guys are our core and we know that. So it's a good group to work with."

Now it's time to get down to business. "I can't wait," Midgley said.


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