Ridge Meadows Flames head coach Brent Hughes played his junior hockey with the WHL’s New Westminster Bruins and went on to enjoy a 357-game NHL career with stops in Winnipeg, Boston, Buffalo and the New York Islanders before getting into coaching.
Now in his second season behind the Flames bench, Hughes took time to catch up with PJHL Media reflecting on his playing days and what’s working right now for the his Harold Brittain Conference-leading club.
PJHL: You got into coaching immediately after your playing career ended. Was that always your plan when your playing days were winding down?
Getting into coaching wasn’t always the plan. I got offered a coaching job when I was deciding to play another year of pro hockey and took the coaching position instead. You never know if you’re a coach or not until you try it. I always thought I would like to coach and could give back to the game for what I have learned in all my years of playing.
PJHL: How did you become aware of the coaching opportunity with the Flames and why did you pursue it?
The Flames organization reached out to me and asked if I would coach their hockey club; I wanted to get back into coaching at some point, but it had to be the right situation.
PJHL: You scored as a Junior player and were also asked to provide some enforcer duties in your time with the New West Bruins and as a pro. How have you adjusted your approach to what is expected of players in Junior hockey today?
Well, the game has certainly changed [but] hard work and consistency haven’t. Fighting has gone. There’s way more opportunity for skilled players in today’s game. I find coaching young players today, they have great skill and speed, but do not know the battle of the game; winning battles and being strong on pucks is a key to success for these players. So teaching that side of the game is important to the player and to winning hockey games.
PJHL: You played with some fabulous players in your career, some of the best to ever play including Dale Hawerchuk, Cam Neely, Dominik Hasek and Pat LaFontaine. Which of your former teammates consistently amazed you the most?
The players you point out were all amazing players and were some of the best of my time. I would have to say the years I spent with the Bruins, that Cam Neely
and Ray Bourque
amazed me for how consistently unreal they played every night leading the way and how humble they were.
PJHL: The Flames are 5-1 through the first half of November – what is working well right now?
Well, we’re scoring timely goals and our power play is clicking. Still lots to work on.
PJHL: Ridge Meadows graduated the PJHL’s top two scorers from last year in Nick Amsler and Ryan Denney. Who have you been impressed with this season that has filled the void?
So those were two big holes to fill. Jack Foster
has stepped up and took a leading role for us this year and has had a great start to the season and Jordan Kujala
has showed great leadership and has scored some key goals for us.
PJHL: You played with some past and present Vancouver Canucks coaches in Travis Green and Mike Yeo. Any contact with them these days?
No I never kept in touch with Travis Green
and Mike Yeo
or even Trent Cull
. Cell phones weren’t really in use when I played, so never had contact numbers. It’s great to see the guys doing what they love; I wish them all well.
PJHL: Which coach that you played under, either in Junior or pro, had the most influence on you?
There are a few coaches that have had influences on me like Brian Sutter
and Dave Tippett
, but who had the most influence on me was Rick Bowness
, and he is still coaching today. What a great guy.