Every year, for the past 23 years, since Jason Stos followed up a four year career in the OHL with another quartet of seasons in professional hockey, coaching has been in the mix.
Come September, for the first time in that quarter century or so behind the bench, Stos will be working with a group of young women.
The Walden native and one of two twin boys to play in the Ontario Hockey League - Jon also spent three years split between the London Knights, Windsor Spitfires, Detroit Compuware Ambassadors and Sudbury Wolves - Jason Stos was named as the head coach of the Sudbury Lady Wolves U15 AA team last month.
"I think there will be some change, but hockey is hockey, when it comes right down to it," he said. "These are athletes, boys or girls, that just want to learn to play the game."
After suiting up for 238 junior games, all but 17 of which came courtesy of the Windsor Spitfires, Jason Stos would find himself at a rookie camp with the Montreal Canadiens, leaving there to land in Toledo (ECHL), and then on to both Chatham and Saginaw of the Colonial League.
"If you didn't get drafted into the NHL, you kind of wanted to pave a path in some other direction, maybe take the long road around, and for some guys, it actually worked out," he said. "To be honest, the maturity level could have been a little bit better at that time of my life."
"That's maybe why I got into coaching, in part to help young minds know what is our there and what is available." And in part, it was also likely a testament to the influence of the likes of the late Tom Webster and Brad Smith, two of the coaches that would oversee the development of Stos in Windsor.
"Hockey didn't always come easy to me," noted the 48 year-old former defenceman. "I really started learning the game when I was 18 years old, really started to feel comfortable with what was going on out here."
"Tom Webster, Brad Smith, they were great mentors to me. I thought that I could be like those guys one day."
While he does not regret in the least his foray into the minor leagues - "those were some very good times in my life" - Stos knew by his mid-twenties that it was time to begin the next chapter in his life. Along with career opportunities, with work, back in his hometown, came the chance to quickly immerse himself right back into junior hockey.
A stint alongside the likes of Larry Bedard and Craig Maki with the Rayside-Balfour Sabrecats would give way to stops in Espanola, back to Rayside, and on to Sudbury, before he would return to the minor hockey ranks to work his way through with his son, Jakson.
"It was a huge adjustment, moving from junior to minor hockey, but I think I became a better coach and more knowledgeable by going backwards to the grassroots and climbing through the ranks," said Stos. "I think I would run into a junior hockey program differently now, than with a hot head and thinking I knew it all at 26 years old."
"I think sometimes you have to take a couple of steps backwards before you take a step forward."
Having wrapped up a challenging 2019-2020 at the helm of the Sudbury Minor Midget "AAA" Wolves, Stos admits that the timing is ideal to take on a more active role with his daughter Payton and her teammates.
"I've spent a lot of time with my son, so it's time for a change," he said. "I watched a lot of the girls hockey last year and took an interest in just how competitive it was."
And while he knows that the game that he and his brother enjoyed in their youth has evolved over time, Stos is among the camp that believes that it's largely been progress for the better. "Things have changed, but because I never took my foot off the gas pedal and kept with it, it forced me to evolve with the changes," he said.
"Hockey became much more disciplined. It's so good right now, and well coached. The players and athletes are just phenomenal." While Stos, and many in the era of his playing days, could be prone to an undisciplined penalty or two, along the way, he admitted to viewing things through a different lens as his years of coaching added up.
"The more I got into it, the more you start to understand the team concept, not putting your team at a disadvantage," he said. "I think I really developed more of an appreciation for those players who really go out and work hard every shift and take the punishment without retaliation."
It's a mantra which should be a little easier to instill in his players than was the case with a minor midget boys team which finished third in the league in penalty minutes, despite playing eight fewer games than the major midget teams.
"I just want a hard working team that doesn't take a shift off," said Stos. "If you can get that out of 17 players, I think you're going to find success, no matter what kind of skill and ability you have."