Citing concerns with the direction the local Junior C hockey team is going, the Windsor Royals’ head coach announced he was parting ways.
For the last two seasons, Mike LaPierre has led the Windsor Royals as its head coach, and this past season, as the club’s general manager.
“I just didn’t like the direction the team was going and how it’s being operated. It was a hard decision and I gave it a lot of thought. It was probably better for both sides if I just stepped down,” said LaPierre, who declined to provide further details.
LaPierre was at the helm of the 2018-19 team when they forced a riveting Game 7 playoff series with the Spryfield Attack. He says he’ll miss the fans, fellow coaching staff, players and rink staff.
“I was real proud of the guys,” said LaPierre, reflecting on the season.
“Spryfield, as you know, were a real strong team. They were a first-place team that only lost five games all year. For us to take them to a Game 7, I was really impressed by the guys’ effort,” said LaPierre in a phone interview.
The Royals’ last game was on March 8.
“They were a great group of guys the last two years. There’s no complaints there,” said LaPierre. “That’s what I’ll really miss with this group: the players. They were all on board with what we were teaching them and they all bought in. It was a great group of guys.”
He said the volunteers with the Valley Maple Leafs — the Windsor-based Junior B hockey club — were also great to work with, as the two hockey clubs are affiliated.
Near the end of 2018, LaPierre made his decision to leave at the end of the season. Shortly thereafter, another opportunity presented itself to him — and he’s quite excited about what is on the horizon.
“My heart is in Windsor but with this opportunity, I’m pretty excited about it,” said LaPierre.
Along with Craig Sanford, who served as the Windsor Royals’ trainer this past season, LaPierre has made a pitch to the Nova Scotia Regional Junior Hockey League to form a new team.
“We’ve been down to Chester and have had a few meetings and stuff with the municipality, the MLA and council. Everybody seems to be pretty excited about a Junior C team coming back to Chester so it’s looking pretty promising,” said LaPierre.
He said they should know in June if the league approves their proposal.
Janet Laybolt, the club’s operations manager, said they wish him well.
“We thank him for stepping in to coach when the other coaches stepped down just before the 2017-18 season started, and for his commitment to coming to all games and practices, and wish him the best in his future endeavors,” Laybolt wrote in an email.
She said they have “quietly talked” to a few people about possibly coaching the team for the 2019-20 season, but were waiting until the 2018-19 season was over before ramping up efforts.
“We are still open to anyone interested that would like to, in some way, join the Windsor Royals. We are looking for some positive individuals with some coaching experience and (who are) willing to work as a team on and off the bench,” said Laybolt.
“As always, our goal is to have a local competitive Junior C team where some of the local kids can come and play after high school or while they are here attending university,” she added.
To volunteer with the Royals’ upcoming season, contact Laybolt at: firstname.lastname@example.org.