London trio may be coaching major junior teams

RYAN PYETTE -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 10:39 AM ET

There's an outside chance the three men behind the London Knights bench last year will all be coaching major junior hockey teams this season.

Dale Hunter, of course, will be back for a sixth season with London. Former assistant Jacques Beaulieu has taken over the Saint John Sea Dogs of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.

And Jeff Perry, who has a Memorial Cup title and a couple of OHL championship seasons with the Knights to his credit, is still holding out hope for a head coaching job this fall.

Perry has expressed an interest in Mississauga where the IceDogs will play their final season this year before new owner Eugene Melnyk sells the team and boots it out of the Hershey Centre to make room for his Toronto St. Michael's Majors.

"I'm keeping my options open. I'm still looking at the OHL and a couple of pro avenues," the 35-year-old Perry said from his Sarnia home. "I have a few irons in the fire but if nothing comes of it, I'll just sit back and enjoy being a hockey dad. I want to be involved in the game but I'm going to school to get my real estate licence."

Currently, the former head coach of the Sarnia Sting (2001-04) and assistant of the Saint John Maple Leafs (1996-99) is running his popular Jeff Perry Skills and Conditioning Camp for young hockey players at the Sarnia Sports and Entertainment Centre.

Perry knows it's already August and most hockey jobs have been filled so he is realistic about his chances. The IceDogs present a special challenge since the successful coaching candidate will essentially be on a one-year contract before finding out in which direction the new ownership will head.

"I've had success coaching at the junior and pro level and all you're looking for is an opportunity to prove your worth and help a team," Perry said.

"We had some good years in London," Perry said, "so you hope somebody out there recognizes that."

Perry's willingness to commute from Sarnia was a benefit to the Knights because it gave them a trusty advance scout for games in Windsor, Sarnia and Plymouth. The OHL schedule often had teams playing on the road in Windsor on Thursday heading to the John Labatt Centre the next night.

London GM Mark Hunter is getting close to naming the team's 2006-07 coaching staff, which is expected to include Chatham native and ex-NHLer Dave Gagner, whose son Sam has signed on to play for the Knights. Hunter didn't rule out adding a second assistant to the bench.

"We're working on someone right now and we should know soon," Mark Hunter said.

The Knights plan to begin training camp on Aug. 29 and play their first exhibition on Sept. 1 against Sarnia at the JLC. There are expected to be approximately 80 players in camp.

"We're calling and e-mailing everybody right now," Hunter said. "We run a big camp because we like to give local kids a chance to come out and show what they can do."


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