With the Coyotes introducing André Tourigny as their new head coach, Hockey Canada lost one of its biggest assets on Canada Day.
“I want to express my sincere gratitude to Hockey Canada for the opportunity to coach and represent Canada on the international stage,” Tourigny said Thursday in a statement provided by Hockey Canada. “In particular Tom Renney, Scott Smith and Scott Salmond, who believed in me and without their trust and support I would not be the person and coach I am today. It has been an honour to work alongside some of the best people and hockey minds in the business and I am extremely proud and grateful to Hockey Canada for affording me this privilege.”
It’s a big move for the Arizona club, which opted not to re-sign Rick Tocchet in May after four seasons and a 24-26-6 record in 2021. It’s also a big move for Tourigny — and not just for him to get out of the cold Canadian winters.
The first-time NHL bench boss paused his position with the OHL’s Ottawa 67’s and signed a one-year contract in March to not only return as head coach of Team Canada’s world junior squad but also to serve as the top man at the 2022 IIHF Men’s World Championship and an assistant at the 2021 men’s tournament (Canada won gold a few weeks ago) and lead Canada at the 2022 Winter Olympics.
While coaching the 2022 world juniors squad in Edmonton and Red Deer, Alta., in December and January is not an option now, for obvious reasons, Tourigny confirmed during his introductory press conference that he also will not be behind the Canadian bench in Beijing if the NHL breaks for the international event.
“At this point, for me, my focus will be 100 percent on the Yotes. I think it’s a great challenge, it’s a dream come true,” Tourigny, who signed a three-year contract, said when asked by SN. “Going to the Olympics as well, it’s huge, but right now my focus will be 100 percent on the Yotes. I thank Hockey Canada for what they did for me. They helped me a lot and they were fantastic with me but it’s time for me to focus on my next challenge.”
The Coyotes’ move creates a gaping hole for the Canadians, who will have to find a new head coach for the juniors squad. The tournament kicks off in less than six months on Boxing Day and Hockey Canada just announced its summer camp for the end of July. And while Salmond, Renney and the rest of the crew in Calgary, Alta., congratulated Tourigny for his “incredible opportunity to fulfill his goal of becoming a head coach in the NHL” and thanked him for the “significant impact” he made, they’ll have to go back to the drawing board to find a new boss.
As for Tourigny, he will take everything he has learned from the national teams into the desert.
“I learned a lot from Dale [Hunter], his poise behind the bench and he’s always even-keeled,” said Tourigny, who served on Hunter’s staff in 2020 when Canada won WJC gold. “I learned from Gerard Gallant (at the 2021 worlds) how he handled the players and he’s always positive with the players. . . . You take a piece of all those guys . . . I learn from everybody every time.”
Tourigny may not be a familiar face south of the border. Aside from his impressive international resume, which includes leading the Canadian juniors to a silver medal in 2021 (the team dominated, winning six straight, before losing 2-0 to the Americans in the final) and earning silver in 2010 and 2011 as an assistant, he was the OHL’s coach of the year twice (2018-19 and 2019-20) and won the Brian Kilrea Coach of the Year Award as the CHL’s top boss in 2019-20.
“He paid a hard price. He’s earned it,” Coyotes GM Bill Armstrong said. Tourigny was also an NHL assistant coach for the Avalanche (2013-15) and Senators (2015-16). “He’s done it the hard way. He’s done it through his players and coaching in these small towns and doing a great job of it and getting to the forefront. I think he put himself on the map with Canadian hockey and what he’s done there and he’s certainly excited, we’re excited about bringing him here.”
Speaking of small towns, Armstrong recalled when he first saw Tourigny.
“Seventeen years ago I was in a bar in Rouyn-Noranda (in Quebec), a bar/restaurant because it’s a small town, and I was tucked away in this little cubbyhole grabbing a bite to eat after the game and I saw this man come in and the entire team from Rouyn-Noranda (the Huskies) was in there. And he was known as this big, tough coach and I watched him interact with his players for about two hours and I was fascinated about his ability to kind of interact with the young kids and at the same time get the most out of them on the ice,” Armstrong said, later mentioning that the place was so far north, “you could see Santa Claus from there.”
Tourigny was with the QMJHL club for 11 seasons and led it to the postseason in 10 of those years.
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Now Tourigny will turn his attention to the Coyotes, a young team with upside but also a team that could see significant changes. There are a number of free agents — both unrestricted and restricted — on the roster, including a few whom Tourigny knows, such as Adin Hill (RFA) and Michael Bunting (UFA), who were on the gold-medal worlds squad in Latvia. Aside from those familiar faces, he’ll see at least two more come training camp in September: goaltender Darcy Kuemper (2021 worlds) and forward Barrett Hayton (2021 world junior captain).
Arizona’s move also adds intrigue. Tourigny coached highly touted prospect Graeme Clark with the 67’s but Arizona does not have a first-round pick. Will the hire change that?
Only time will tell what Armstrong and his new head coach do. For now, Tourigny is just ready to get to work in what he said will be “probably the longest summer of my life.”