Brad MacKenzie has earned his opportunity to be a head coach.
The 26-year-old Charlottetown native is the new bench boss for the Grand Falls Rapids of the Maritime Junior Hockey League. He spent the past three seasons as an assistant coach with the Charlottetown Islanders after two years with the UPEI Panthers.
“The main thing for me is I always look at development opportunities for myself as a person,” MacKenzie said. “For me, right now, I think this is the best spot for me to come and develop as a head coach and, ultimately, that’s been my goal since I started coaching.”
He was thankful for the guidance and support he received from Islanders head coach Jim Hulton and associate coach Guy Girouard.
“They’ve been unbelievable to me,” he said. “That's what made the decision so hard for me. Even though I got the offer to be a head coach, which is what I wanted to do, I am leaving something that’s really good. It’s a little bittersweet in that regard.”
Like players, part of a coach’s job is to help his staff grow and develop.
Hulton said he and the rest of the Isles organization are thrilled for MacKenzie.
“It’s another step in what’s a real promising career,” he said. “We knew this day was going to come at some point. Selfishly, we were hoping that it would be delayed a couple of years, but deep down, I think, we knew he was more than ready for an opportunity such as this one.”
Despite his young age, MacKenzie has accomplished a lot in his young hockey coaching career, Hulton said. He noted MacKenzie has a well-rounded resume, is a good communicator and can breakdown and present video to players.
MacKenzie said he has been lucky to have guys like Hulton, Panthers head coach Forbes MacPherson and Allan Andrews, president and founder of Andrews Hockey Growth Programs, give him a chance to prove himself.
“It means a lot that there’s people out there who trust you and will bring you along,” he said.
MacKenzie will continue to be involved with Andrews program and will assist the Islanders through their upcoming draft.
“It’s a tall task to try and replace him, but we’ve already started to get some enquiries,” Hulton said.