Beaulieu going to the Dogs

JIM KERNAGHAN -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 12:49 PM ET

London Knights assistant coach Jacques Beaulieu has gone to the Dogs.

When he is announced as the new head coach of the Saint John, N.B., Sea Dogs Tuesday, it stands as a mark of progress made by both Beaulieu and the Knights.

A junior franchise is measured not only by the players it sends to the next level, but also by the coaches it graduates.

The Hunter brothers' five-year plan to win the Memorial Cup paralleled Beaulieu's time frame toward getting a major junior head coaching job. Since Knights co-owner Dale Hunter will be back as head coach, it had to be elsewhere and when the Sea Dogs flew Beaulieu down just before the OHL final against Peterborough, he listened.

"I met with the general manager and the owner, Scott McCain of McCain Foods," Beaulieu said. "We hit it off well and had the same thoughts about how to build a team and how it should be run and coached. I prepared a month of planning for them and it went from there."

Beaulieu will be with the team for the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League draft June 10.

In the personable 38-year-old native of Long Lac, Ont., Saint John will be getting a guy who worked his way up from coaching bantams in Strathroy to an increasingly pivotal role with the Knights. In between, he coached the junior development Mt. Brydges team and the junior B Petrolia and London franchises before he was hired by the Knights five seasons ago.

When he left Saint John to return, he was told there were three other candidates to be interviewed but he got a call the following day asking him not to consider any other offers.

The Sea Dogs' interest is understandable. Beaulieu did the gamut with the Knights, from schooling issues, billeting and discipline to running the defence and adding input on the special teams.

Moreover, he'd worked with a franchise that rose from average to winning the Memorial Cup.

"I'm grateful for what Mark and Dale Hunter allowed me to do," he said. "They prepared me to be a head coach. Dale is one of top three coaches in the Canadian Hockey League, so I learned from best. Mark is the hardest-working guy in the CHL and you learn from watching on a daily basis how hard you have to work to be successful. I'm going to take a lot of that to Saint John with me."

Since Dale Hunter prefers to stay in the background away from the arena, Beaulieu had evolved into the coaching spokesperson, a role he undertook with aplomb, especially considering he spoke no English until he was 16.

His departure is naturally bittersweet. The Knights accomplished a lot against the odds this season before being swept in a tightly contested OHL final against the Peterborough Petes.

Beaulieu said his determination to make hockey a full-time career after leaving his trade as an electrician has meant sacrifices by his wife, Carmen, and children Caitlin, Madison and Nathan and that all decisions have been family ones.

"After 18 years in the area, it's hard to leave, but you have to move on and follow your objectives, same as a player. The fans, through bad teams and the really good one, have showed such tremendous support."

His hardest moment was when Peterborough scored to win in the last minute of the third game.

"I thought, 'This might be my last game at the John Labatt Centre.' "

Turns out he was right.


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