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Craig Duncanson named coach of the team he once captained
2021-07-15
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As a 16 year-old OHL rookie, Craig Duncanson finished third on the Wolves in scoring (38G-38A in 62 games) in 1983-1984, also leading the team with 178 penalty minutes. Frustration will build up when the local juniors are languishing with a record of 19-50-1.

It was much the same story a year later, with Duncanson finishing behind only Jeff Brown on the offensive parade (35G-28A in 53 games), but still as tough as ever (129 PIMs).

And what of the team?

A little deja-vu all over again, now at 17-46-3, all part of a decade long run that would see Sudbury somehow manage to miss post-season play eight of ten seasons.

That's more than a little adversity for a young local product who was named the youngest captain in team history, at the time. It's also a testament to the type of character that he would dearly love to pass along to his troops, preparing to coach the same franchise he once led into battle, on the ice.

"I competed hard," said Duncanson, who was named head coach of the Sudbury Wolves on Wednesday. He replaces Cory Stillman less than half a year after the Laurentian Voyageurs' program that he (Duncanson) guided for the past seven years folded up their tent, a victim of the financial mess at L.U.

"I wasn't as fast as most guys, maybe not as big as some guys, but I prided myself on winning pucks and making things happen," noted the 54 year-old father of two. And while he would love his new team to be fully embedded with the kind of character that sees you named as captain virtually every stop of the way, he is more than thankful for the junior-aged skill set he will have at his disposal.

Just don't expect him to leave the defensive leanings that were at the essence of Voyageurs' hockey too far behind.

"We plan to give guys the opportunity to be offense - but we need the puck to be offensive," he said. "In order to get the puck, you need to be pretty good defensively. If you want to say you are an offensive player, then be prepared to forecheck all over the ice."

"We need to win the puck. Our forecheck might start at our own goal line."

While Wolves' VP and General Manager Rob Papineau has the utmost confidence in the tactical abilities of the man who was selected ninth overall in the 1985 NHL Entry Draft by the Los Angeles Kings, there is so much more that he liked in opting to stay local.

"I've gotten to know Craig a bit in the community, outside of Wolves hockey," said Papineau. "Just the way that he carries himself, his demeanour, the way that he communicates is outstanding. The compete level, the structure, the discipline that his teams played with, those are things that really matter to me."

"He just aligns with everything that we believe in."

Acknowledging that associate coaches Darryl Moxam and Zack Stortini were also both in the conversation for the coveted post, Papineau was thrilled to see both remain aboard as part of Duncanson's staff.

"That's one difficult part in making this kind of decision - there are great candidates, but there's only one head coach," said Papineau. "We had a conversation about why we made the choice that we did."

"They both have a tremendous amount of respect for Craig. They were 100% supportive and understanding and really committed to the players."

Duncanson already enjoys a coaching familiarity with Moxam, the pair spending time together behind the bench at Laurentian.

"Darryl and Zack are both fully capable of coaching at this level on their own," stated Duncanson. "You look at what Oshawa did this week, hiring three head coaches. We basically did the same thing."

"I will rely on their expertise."

Appreciative of the opportunity he has been given, Duncanson acknowledged that life without hockey was a definite possibility.

"I love this community," he said. "Unfortunately, in the coaching profession, there are only a handful of jobs that would allow me to stay in the north. I was fully prepared to round out my life doing something else, though my preference, of course, is to work in the game."

"I feel extremely honoured to land what I consider the best coaching job north of the 401."

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