Curcio drops Knights for chance at pros

MORRIS DALLA COSTA, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:14 AM ET

London Knights assistant coach Pat Curcio is doing what former Knights assistant coach Jacques Beaulieu did -- move on to a better opportunity.

While Curcio resigned yesterday as an assistant, the Knights rehired Beaulieu who earlier this year was relieved of his position as head coach and general manager of the Saint John Sea Dogs of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League.

Curcio said he expects everything to be organized within "two or three weeks."

"But these things take time," Curcio said. "I can't say exactly where, but I was approached by a new ownership group with a team affiliated with an NHL team and they have presented me with an opportunity to be the coach and general manager of the hockey club.

"It just wasn't fair for everyone here to have two jobs. I had to leave one to pursue the other so I resigned to do that."

The Knights were waiting to see what Curcio decided, but were willing to go with two assistant coaches if necessary.

This wasn't a one-for-one switch. If Curcio had decided to remain, he and Beaulieu would have been co-assistant coaches.

As it stands now, it appears the Knights will operate as they did last year with general manager Mark Hunter on the bench as the second assistant whenever he isn't doing his GM duties.

Curcio's two years as an assistant were like "two years at Harvard," he said.

Curcio was often the public spokesperson for the Knights.

"I love the London Knights and Mark and Dale, but any time an opportunity presents itself of this nature, you've got to progress," Curcio said. "Mark and Dale were supportive of it and only want what's best for me. When you have the chance to go pro and be a head coach, you have to take those chances."

Curcio will still run August's Euro Can Cup competition at the John Labatt Centre.

Beaulieu will be available for the Knights when they hold their mini-camp the end of May at Western Fair Sports Centre.

Beaulieu's return will make the changes in the coaching component seamless.

He was with the Knights for six years before he left to be the coach of the Sea Dogs. A few months after going to Saint John, he was handed the general manager's role.

Beaulieu, 41, is strong on the technical aspects of the game and like Curcio is well liked outside the dressing room.

Beaulieu isn't shy about speaking his mind.

He compiled a record of 95-111 and was the QMJHL's general manager of the year last season. The Dogs went to the league semifinals in Beaulieu's second year.

This year's team had high expectations. Beaulieu traded top players such as Chris DiDomenico and Alex Grant at Christmas. The Dogs finished third in the Atlantic Division at 34-30-2-2 and were swept by the more experienced Cape Breton Screaming Eagles in the first round of the playoffs.

Beaulieu is in Saint John playing "Mr. Dad." His eldest son Nathan is a 16-year-old with the Sea Dogs.

There was a job in Ontario and one in Quebec that Beaulieu was interested in, but those teams opted for other people.

"It's very, very, very limited this year compared to other years," Beaulieu said. "But this is a great opportunity for me. I trust the people I'm working with. I have a great relationship with Dale and Mark. We won before and now we'll try to do it again."

Beaulieu said he was fired because of a "difference in theories" with club ownership. He was surprised by his dismissal.

"But the life span of coaches is very, very short," Beaulieu said. "Like I said when I was let go, 'I'm 41 and I'll be fired again.'"

When some coaches get fired, they take some time off. Beaulieu got right back up on that bike and started pedalling.

"I don't think I failed," he said. "When you fail, it's different, it's harder to accept. I did a lot of good things. They won 15 games their inaugural year, 20 the year after then 41 and 37. We put the program on the map and the final four last year. I was quite happy with what I achieved here."

He came right back to London after being let go by the Dogs and acted as an advisor to the Knights during the playoffs.

This is a good move for the Knights. After three years as a head coach and general manager, Beaulieu will be able to offer even more experience to what is an experienced staff.

No matter how you look at it, he's no Dog.


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