June 14, 2012
Pearn never wanted to leave JetsEx-Hab hired as Winnipeg assistant
By PAUL FRIESEN, QMI Agency
WINNIPEG - Maybe there is a hockey god, after all.
For the last seven months or so, longtime NHL assistant coach Perry Pearn must have wondered.
Last October Pearn became one of the few pro sports coaches in recent memory to be fired just before a game.
One minute he was getting the Montreal Canadiens ready to play Philadelphia, the next he was out the door, demoted to the position of pro scout by a GM who, it turned out, wasn’t long for his job, either.
“Obviously I was real disappointed in how things ended there,” Pearn, freshly minted as a Winnipeg Jets assistant, said during a conference call, Thursday. “The biggest disappointment for me is the lack of patience. Eight games in, the kind of decision that was made just seemed to be a little bit premature.”
Dismissed outright last month, Pearn has landed on his feet in a place where knee-jerk doesn’t fly.
It also means he’s come full circle: 17 years ago, his first NHL assistant’s gig was under Terry Simpson with a Winnipeg Jets franchise that was headed for Phoenix.
“The first thing that made it attractive to me was I didn’t want to leave when I left the last time,” the 61-year-old Stettler, Alta., native said of coming back.
The fit is perfect on a personal level — Pearn has a daughter living in Winnipeg.
Professionally, it’s not one you saw coming.
While assistant coaches are typically hired by friends and people they’ve worked with in the past — Pearn himself spent 10 years with head man Jacques Martin in Ottawa and Montreal — he and Jets head coach Claude Noel aren’t bosom buddies.
“I’ve never met Perry,” Noel confessed on the same conference call.
At least, not until they talked about this job.
But Noel was aware of Pearn’s extensive resume, not only in the NHL but as a three-time winner of World Junior gold for Team Canada, once as the head coach.
Not long ago, after Jets assistant GM Craig Heisinger (who else?) brought Pearn to town, Noel actually met the guy — and they hit it off like new best friends on the first day of class.
“The biggest thing for me was the chemistry,” Noel said. “Because we have very good chemistry down here in the locker-room and now with our team in management, and we want that to continue.
“There were some risks. But after I’d met Perry and we’d talked for some time ... it was a very easy fit.”
Pearn’s arrival swells the Jets assistant ranks to three.
The others, Charlie Huddy and Pascal Vincent, have new contract extensions, along with goalie coach Wade Flaherty, video man Tony Borgford and St. John’s assistant Mark Morrison.
Exactly who does what behind the bench in Winnipeg is still to be determined. Pearn worked with the special teams in Montreal.
The man’s connection to the Jets starts with Heisinger, the old equipment manager, but don’t end there.
Pearn also coached GM Kevin Cheveldayoff with the national under-18 team, back in the day.
“I don’t think he’s going to blame me for it,” Pearn cracked.
It seemed then-GM Pierre Gauthier was blaming Pearn for the Habs brutal start last season, a decision many hockey people thought put the jerk in knee-jerk.
Maybe Gauthier didn’t realize Pearn’s rather charmed existence in the NHL: his teams have made the playoffs in every one of his 15 seasons behind their benches.
Ottawa and Montreal both reached a conference final with him.
The Habs fired him last season, and look what happened.
Pearn didn’t see that coming, and he certainly didn’t see this, 17 years ago.
Last October, though, he found himself on the enemy bench for the first game back, thinking this wouldn’t be a bad place to work again, someday.
Since then it’s been one rough ride.
Followed by an equally smooth landing.