Paddy Flynn, citing a desire to spend more time with his family, is stepping down as the coach and general manager of the Peninsula Chinooks Junior B Hockey Club.
Flynn will be moving on to Miramichi, New Brunswick, Canada, to be the head coach and general manager of hockey operations of a Junior A expansion club in the Maritime Junior A Hockey League.
Miramichi is just 4 1/2 hours from Flynn's home of Porters Lake, Nova Scotia. The 36-year-old coach said his wife, Debbie, his 2-year-old son and his 7-year-old daughter will be joining him at his new job.
"What Paddy did was set the standart for us. We're going to tr andfind somebody who fits his mold."
Vince Redford, President, Peninsula Junior Hockey, Inc.
None of Flynn's family members ever set foot on the central peninsula during his two-year tour with the Chinooks. Flynn said in 10 years of marriage, coaching has allowed him just four years with his family.
Chinooks goalie Daren Tracey, who lives 50 minutes from Flynn in Nova Scotia, said the coach has told him that it is increasingly difficult to come home and face his family after being away for months.
"I can hardly live with it anymore," Flynn said. "I loved it here, too. It seems like a real nice place to raise a family."
Tracey, who called Flynn the "heart and soul" of the Chinooks, said he could see the strain of being away from family taking a toll on his coach as the year went on. Flynn said the situation made him prone to burnout.
"I could fully understand how he was feeling," Tracey said. "I've been there myself. When I was 17 playing Junior A in Alberta, I can remember sitting there every frigging day and staring out the window, daydreaming and wondering what was going on at home."
Flynn signed a two-year contract to be the coach and general manager of the Chinooks in April 1999. At the time, he said a major reason was because staying with the Chinooks would allow him to move his family to the central peninsula.
That never happened.
"With the stability of the franchise, (moving his family here) was tough to do," said Vince Redford, the president of Peninsula Junior Hockey, Inc. "We had marketing problems last year, and the year before.
"We're sorry we couldn't have been a more stable environment."
Flynn said there are some outstanding financial issues with the club, and chose to leave it at that. He said he is able to break from the contract early because of a clause allowing him to move on to a higher level.
"We're behind in the bills right now, but we will get them paid," Redford said. "We need to get a little more marketing done, and we need to get some bills collected."
Flynn also did not move his family here because of differences in the U.S. and Canadian health care systems. Flynn's daughter is in remission from leukemia, and Canada's socialized health care system was tough to leave.
"Socialized health care -- there's nothing better," Flynn said.
The coach guided Peninsula to identical 10-21-1 records in the Northern Division of the Western States Hockey League in his two seasons. Both campaigns were capped by getting swept out of the first round of the playoffs by the Fairbanks Ice Dogs.
Most of the time in sports, when a coach puts up a record like that, not too many people are sorry to see him go.
However, players and members of the hockey community contacted by the Clarion Thursday indicated they would miss Flynn.
Despite not putting up big wins, he did raise respect for Junior Hockey after the peninsula's first attempt at that level of hockey -- the Peninsula Hellfighters. In 1997-98, that organization ended up folding after putting up a 4-35 record.
The Chinooks were formed as a separate organization the following year, and Flynn was brought in to build the program.
"The Hellfighters were a joke," said Jolene Sutherland, the housing and volunteer coordinator for the Chinooks the past two years. "The general manager had no control over those kids.
"It was a huge party from the time they stepped off the plane to the time they left."
According to Sutherland, Flynn showed the other end of the spectrum of Junior Hockey by refusing to take a player, no matter how talented he was, if there was a question of character.
Flynn also got his players involved in various community service projects such as donating blood, collecting items for food drives and having players spend time in local classrooms.
This past year, he served as the coaching director for the Kenai Peninsula Hockey Association and organized several clinics.
"We're going to lose a valuable asset to local hockey," said Jack Carver, president of KPHA. "He was a key in forming a good program.
"I'm kind of sad to see it happen."
Carver said he was skeptical about having Junior Hockey in the community after the Hellfighters experience, but he said that changed when he met Flynn.
"The biggest reason (I liked him) is that he was a straight-shooting guy and honest," Carver said. "His main interest was for the kids."
Dan Fagan served as the Chinooks captain this year and spent two years with the team. He called Flynn one of the closest friends he made while in Alaska.
"I don't think I'll ever have a coach as good as him again," Fagan said. "He was so involved in our lives and in helping us out as players.
"He's forgotten more about hockey than I know."
One sign of the respect the Chinooks are earning in the area is the number of local kids who played for the team last season. Of the 24 players Flynn saw fit to mention in a season-ending column, 10 were from the central peninsula.
"I'm really proud that we played more local kids than any other team in the league," Flynn said.
Redford said giving those local kids a place to ascend to higher levels of hockey without having to travel to junior programs in the Lower 48 is exactly the reason he plans to press on now that Flynn is gone.
Bryon Coleman, a 1999 graduate of Kenai Central High School, played for the Chinooks for the first time this season after playing four years for the Kardinals.
"I like living here," Coleman said. "If I had to go Outside to play hockey I would, but I'd rather stay here."
Redford said Flynn's replacement will have huge shoes to fill.
"What Paddy did was set the standard for us," Redford said. "We're going to try and find somebody who fits his mold.
"In the last two years, we've had coaches from the states and Canada asking about coaching here. Don't get me wrong. They're not beating down the doors. But there are other coaches out there."
Redford said Junior Hockey is all about developing players for the next level, and he said Flynn did a good job of that by sending three players to college programs after the 1998-99 season.
"This is a viable program that is only going to make the community better," Redford said. "I've always said it is a goal of mine, and maybe this is just cliche, to raise the level of hockey in this community."
Sutherland, the housing coordinator who was hoping her 9-year-old son would one day play for Flynn, said it will take awhile to envision life after the coach.
"He has laid the groundwork and got the club's reputation so much higher than last year," Sutherland said. "Hopefully, somebody will come in, take the ball and run with it."
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