Gregg Kennedy got to Slave Lake just in time for the Icedogs’ Nov. 20 game against the High Prairie Red Wings. He watched the game from the stands, which turned out to be a rough one for the team Kennedy had just driven 40-odd hours from Ontario to coach.
In other words, he’s got his work cut out for him.
Kennedy is from Ottawa. He’s been coaching for over three decades, at various levels including college. He’s also a weekly participant in a podcast on the Ottawa Senators, called ‘Sens Nation.’ We checked it out, and were surprised to find Kennedy talking about coming to Slave Lake, in both the Nov. 14 and 22 editions of the show. In the first episode, he tells host Steve Warne he’s just gotten a new job, having taken a phone call from “beautiful downtown Slave Lake Alberta.”
A week later, Kennedy joined Warne from Saskatoon Saskatchewan, having been already four days on the road.
He planned on leaving at eight the following morning and getting to Slave Lake in time for puck drop on Nov. 20.
“I don’t even know who we’re playing,” he told Warne.
He knows now, after seeing High Prairie thrash the Icedogs 10 – 4. The question he faces is how to stop the bleeding.
The league has nice things to say about Kennedy. His credentials include “Jr. A experience from three different teams over his career. He has also coached at the university level at York and Carleton. Coach Kennedy will no doubt use his ability to attract, develop and promote players within the Icedog program to make an already successful franchise even more so.”
How successful the Icedogs are is pretty much an open question this season. They are something like the Edmonton Oilers – some game-breaking talent at the top, but it doesn’t seem to go deep enough to match up with High Prairie.
“Work needs to be done in the defensive zone,” Kennedy told The Leader in a phone chat last week.
At that point he’d seen a game or two and run a couple of practices. Plus a bunch of meetings.
“We’ve had some good conversations,” he said. “Now we’ve just got to get at it.”
Kennedy has been coaching hockey since he was in high school, after realizing his play wasn’t going to take him very far. He’s been doing it ever since.
In August of this year he had accepted a position behind the bench for a team based in Italy, but due to COVID, it fell through. He was contemplating retirement when he got the call from Lauren Barr, the woman he has now replaced as Icedogs’ GM.
And (this just in), the league has decided to break until early next year, thanks to the worsening COVID situation. Kennedy says he plans to stick around for a couple of weeks, then fly home and return on Jan. 1.
“There’s work I can do,” he says.