By the time the Ontario Hockey League season begins in September, the only familiar coaching face behind the London Knights bench likely will be head coach Dale Hunter.
Assistant Jacques Beaulieu has already left to become head coach of the Quebec junior league's Saint John, N.B., Sea Dogs. Now the other assistant coach, Jeff Perry, appears to be leaving as well.
Perry wants to be a head coach and has applied within the OHL. There are openings in Kingston, Erie and Windsor. If he doesn't get a head coaching job in the OHL, Perry may be headed for an assistant's job in the American Hockey League.
"It's not easy for me to leave," Perry said yesterday. "It's a first-class operation who treated me and my family nothing but awesome. It's a tough decision, but I have to make a business decision to try and further my career."
It sounds like a decision has already been made, but Perry said he has nothing concrete yet.
"I'm being hopeful," Perry said. "We've put three pretty good seasons together. I've got nothing done yet, but I have irons in the fire. I just hope the resume speaks for itself and something materializes for me."
Perry played professional hockey and was the head coach of the Sarnia Sting before coming to the Knights.
Whatever happens needs to happen quickly, as the Knights want to put their staff in place.
Even if Perry does not find work elsewhere, there is no guarantee he'll be back with the Knights. Financial issues have to be resolved between Perry and the Knights.
London general manager Mark Hunter wouldn't commit to Perry one way or the other.
"I just don't know whether he'll be back," Hunter said. "He's looking for a head coaching job."
If he doesn't get a coaching job, will be he back in London?
"I don't know what's going to happen," Hunter said. "We'll wait and see what he does. We're not going to wait forever. I have to fill that void."
Neither Perry nor Hunter would discuss financial arrangements, but it's well-known both Beaulieu and Perry made quite a bit more money than most assistant coaches in the league.
"If things don't work out, we'll sit down and speak then," Perry said. "(The Knights) treated me and my family extremely well. We can't complain one bit."
Both Beaulieu and Perry had hopes of one day becoming head coach of the Knights. There have been rumblings Dale Hunter would sooner, rather than later, move into a professional coaching job. But with the Knights drafting so many players with family connections and close ties to the team, Hunter likely will be behind the bench for a few more years.
The Knights took Dale's son Tucker and Mark's son Garrett in the OHL priority selection this year along with Philip McRae, son of Knights minority owner Basil McRae.
"It is my impression that he will be around for a while," Perry said. "It's nothing that he has said, but with Tucker being drafted here, it's a great situation there to have Tucker there and spend time with him and help him in his career."
The National Hockey League draft is where so many hockey people get together and that is being held in late June.
"I think we'll know what's going on after that," Mark Hunter said.
Hunter is talking with former NHL player Dave Gagner about a job as an assistant coach. Dave's son Sam just committed to play for the Knights a year after they drafted him.
Hunter also expects to get a better idea after the NHL draft on whether centre Pat Kane will come to play for the Knights. Kane was drafted by London two years ago and is one of the most sought-after prospects in North America.
He is the leading scorer for the elite U.S. national team development program's under-18 squad in Ann Arbor, Mich., with 45 goals and 45 assists in 52 games this season.
"He's totally undecided," Hunter said of Kane, who has made several trips to London over the last two years, including one in April during the playoffs.
Kane is being heavily pursued by U.S. universities. Wisconsin, the university Gagner committed to verbally before joining the Knights, Boston University, Michigan and Ohio State are on the list.