Jordan Draper, seen here playing pro in Europe, is now the player-coach of the Quesnel Kangaroos. (Photo: Jordan Draper, Facebook)

Quesnel Kangaroos player becomes coach, stays player

Jordan Draper named new Roos bench boss, still No. 96

After a long career as a player, Jordan Draper’s body told him it was time to dial it back a little. That’s when the Quesnel Kangroos told him it was time to take a spot behind the bench. And on the wing.

Draper was announced this week as the team’s new head coach, but still free to suit up on occasion.

Draper, 34, was a lethal forward for the Roos last year, playing 15 of the team’s 16 games, putting up a staggering 27 goals and 16 assists along the way. He knows – as does the entire Central Interior Hockey League – that he can still factor heavily into wins. In the 2023-24 season, he will be doing it a couple of different ways.

“Jordan has a lot of knowledge and experience for the game,” said the team’s announcement of his coaching position. “Playing in the WHL, Alberta Junior Hockey League, university hockey and playing pro overseas, he sees how the game has evolved and will do his best to put a winning product on the ice this coming season.”

The positioned opened up when Kangaroos mainstay head coach Harley Gilks stepped down after the Kangaroos won the Coy Cup, this spring. Draper was already a team leader, an alternate captain, and a natural candidate. He has coached in youth scenarios, but this will be his first foray into adult bench boss. With stalwart assistant coach Waylon L’Heureux still in the coaching mix, Draper feels confident in the system.

Now he will be reaching back to remember and channel the great coaching he’s received over the years.

“I played at a pretty high level, I’ve had some really good coaches, so I’ll kind of take things from everybody that I’ve had,” he said. “Seeing how Harley ran things the last few years, I’ll try to keep a lot of the same structure.”

He points out that as a coach, in adult amateur hockey, “you have to kind of adapt to guys’ work schedules and family life schedules. I’ll be trying to work on systems, if we can, through the week, but I don’t want to change to much. Harley did a great job. I just want to keep going what he started.”

He does have some strong mentors to draw from. He played in a list of leagues that all had brilliant coaching as a common denominator. He lists his favourites as Steve Hamilton, Ryan Marsh, Serge Lajoie, “I had Brian Sutter when I was in Red Deer, and he was a Jack Adams Award winner. I was pretty fortunate. Those guys are pretty high-end coaches, so I can’t complain.”

There will be a period of adjustment, he said. That will be something he has stay on top of, especially if he is sometimes on the ice, then slipping back into coach mode.

“I don’t want to find myself just watching the game. I want to be able to control the bench, who’s going out there, what the team needs next. But any little thing that happens (as a coach), you feel the reward and the responsibility, the good and the bad.”

One thing he knows for certain is “everyone will be gunning for the Roos,” after topping the standings in the regular season, winning the CIHL playoffs, then winning the provincial Coy Cup title on home ice. It’s a lot of pressure on an incoming coach, so it’s helpful that he was there for every line change.

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