By Nick Patterson Herald Writer
It didn’t take long for Mark Ferner to land back on his feet in the WHL.
The former Everett Silvertips head coach returned to Comcast Arena for the first time Saturday, when the Kamloops Blazers visited Everett.
Ferner, who spent one-and-a-half seasons guiding Everett before being fired in January, is now Kamloops’ associate coach, and he was all smiles when discussing his return to the city.
“It’s good,” Ferner said. “It’s hockey. There’s good people in this organization, I stay in touch with (Everett assistant coach Mitch Love) quite a bit, and talk to (Tips equipment manager James Stucky) as well. It’s a crappy part of the business. What did Bum Phillips say? ‘There’s two types of coaches, the ones who get fired and the ones who are going to get fired.’ I enjoyed my time here, no question about it. Great fans, great city, great arena. So it’s very enjoyable for me to be back here.”
Ferner was hired by Everett in July of 2011 by then Tips general manager Doug Soetaert. Soetaert himself was dismissed in February of 2012, and Ferner lasted less than a year under Soetaert’s successor, Garry Davidson. Everett went 38-64-2-10 under Ferner’s tutelage.
After his dismissal, Ferner spent the remainder of last season spending time with his family.
“I was able to spend some quality time with my family, which was real important,” Ferner said. “I got to see my kid play some hockey, which I had never been able to do. I didn’t want to not coach. I thought it was important, regardless the capacity, that I get back in the league or get back into coaching. I wanted to coach and keep my name out there.”
If didn’t take long for Ferner to find himself in familiar territory. He was hired in August by Kamloops, where he spent four seasons as an assistant coach and head coach from 2002-06. The Blazers went 35-41-6-2 during Ferner’s time as head coach.
“It’s a very familiar place for me,” Ferner said. “I was here once before, but it’s a new regime now, with the new ownership. My mom still lives in Kamloops, my sister lives there, my wife’s parents live there. It’s a very familiar place and if it wasn’t Everett, Kamloops would be the next place I’d choose.”
Ferner’s role with the Blazers is greater than a typical assistant. Guy Charron stepped down following last season to take an advisory role. Dave Hunchak was elevated from associate coach to head coach, with Ferner brought in as associate coach. Both Hunchak, who coached Moose Jaw for four seasons, and Ferner have WHL head coaching experience. Therefore, it’s almost as if the Blazers have a two-headed head coach.
“We work well together,” Ferner said. “At the end of the day Dave has the final say, he’s the head coach. But we work real well together, discussing our team and our systems. It’s a good working relationship, for sure.”
Kamloops is back in rebuilding mode after winning 47 games last season. The Blazers are 4-9-0-0 and in fourth place in the B.C. Division.
“We got off to a bit of a slow start, but we’ve seen some good, positive things at times,” Ferner said. “We played a great game a couple nights ago (in a 3-1 victory over Seattle last Wednesday), then took a couple steps back in Vancouver (in a 5-1 loss last Friday). We told our kids we have to have the mentality to stay consistently better every day.”
The Blazers gave it a go, but couldn’t give Ferner a victory on his return to Everett as the Tips prevailed 1-0.
Around the WHL
Seattle received yet another boost as Ryan Gropp gave up his commitment to the University of North Dakota to join the T-birds. Gropp, a 17-year-old forward who had been playing for the Penticton Vees of the British Columbia Hockey League, was Seattle’s first-round pick in the 2011 bantam draft. … It was a tumultuous week in Lethbridge as the Hurricanes sent home two of its top players, 19-year-old forwards Jaimen Yakubowski and Sam Mckechnie. Yakubowski, who scored 32 goals last season, and Mckechnie, who scored 26, both requested trades after Lethbridge started the season 1-9-0-1. Both scored just one goal in the Hurricanes’ first 11 games. … It was a quiet overager cutdown day as the only move came when Regina claimed 20-year-old goaltender Mac Engel off waivers from Prince George. This came after 19-year-old goalie Teagan Sacher left the Pats to attend the University of Winnipeg. … Former Everett Silvertip Trent Lofthouse was on the move again. The 19-year-old forward, who was traded from Everett to Victoria last season, was flipped to Vancouver in exchange for an eighth-round pick in the 2014 bantam draft. … Saskatoon acquired 19-year-old forward Chase Clayton from Calgary in exchange for a conditional fifth-round pick in 2014. ? Portland’s Nicolas Petan was named the WHL Player of the Week. The 18-year-old forward had two goals and five assists as the Winterhawks went 3-0.
Points — Mitch Holmberg (Spokane) 32; goals — Holmberg 16; assists — Holmberg, Nicolas Petan (Portland), Mathew Barzal (Seattle), Sam Reinhart (Kootenay) 16; penalty minutes — Sam Grist (Kamloops) 48; wins — Eric Williams (Spokane) 8; goals against average —Austin Lotz (Everett) 1.74; save percentage — Lotz .935.
Check out Nick Patterson’s Silvertips blog at http://www.heraldnet.com/silvertipsblog, and follow him on Twitter at NickHPatterson.