Byrne 'excited' to take 67's reins

DON BRENNAN, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 7:41 AM ET

Chris Byrne knew he wanted to be a coach when he was a player -- from his final year as captain of the CJHL's Raiders to helping his brother Mark's summer league team with systems and drills.

Now, at 34, he's reaching a new level and following in the footsteps of a legend, all at the same time.

"I'm very excited about the opportunity," said Byrne, a 67's assistant for the past two years and the man who will replace Brian Kilrea as 67's coach for the 2009-10 season.

"It's been a great couple of years, learning from a Hall of Famer and learning the OHL from these guys. It's been an unbelievable experience for me.

RIGHT AT HOME

"It's been my dream to be a major junior coach, and to get the opportunity to do it in my hometown, where my wife is from, makes it even better.

"Anybody that's been around our team knows that the guys work hard and people are treated well," Bryne added. "People want to be around Brian Kilrea. People want to be around our team. That won't change."

Byrne grew up in Centrepointe and attended high school at St. Pius. He spent four years as a defenceman in the CJHL, two with Kanata and two with Nepean, and still holds the league record for most career playoff penalty minutes.

He had brief stints with three minor pro teams -- the Oklahoma City Blazers, Pensacola Ice Pilots and Nashville Knights -- before returning to Ottawa and the business finance program at Algonquin College.

In 1996, he took a job as an assistant with the Raiders and in 1998 he became the team's head coach.

A couple of years later he added the team's GM title to his resume -- and quit his job as a customer service manager at the Royal Bank. In the 2002-03, he won the first of back-to-back CJHL titles and coach of the year awards.

While he has aspirations to coach in the pro ranks, Byrne is not looking past the present.

"I hope to go as far as I can in coaching, it's definitely a dream of mine," said Byrne, who lives in Greely with wife Kristal and their three children: Cole, Nolan and Kendra.

"But this is a big job here, obviously. I'm looking forward to this season, and to coming to training camp next year."

Byrne said he'll hire his assistants next summer.

"I can't think of that for one minute," he said, when asked if there are any negatives in succeeding the most successful coach in Canadian junior hockey history.

"I've just got to concentrate on doing my job, and getting through the first training camp. I've got to take it one step at a time.

"I hope to have a good first year. That's my goal."


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