By Nick Patterson Herald Writer
EVERETT — Mark Ferner couldn’t keep his emotions from seeping out.
Fired as the head coach of the Everett Silvertips on Tuesday, along with assistant coach Chris Hartsburg, his voice began to crack as he recounted his time in Everett.
“It was great,” Ferner said of his stint as Everett’s coach. “I can’t say enough about the fans, about the city. There’s no question the fans are very passionate about their hockey team. When I first had the opportunity to come here, that’s the thing I noticed most.
“It’s just disappointing, not only for myself but for Chris, that we won’t be able to see and reap the rewards in the years to come, because I know this team is going to be good.”
Ferner was dismissed after spending a season-and-a-half at the helm. The Tips went 38-64-2-10 during that time. Tips general manager Garry Davidson will take over behind the bench on an interim basis for the remainder of the season. The search for a replacement will begin after the season is over.
Davidson cited a difference in hockey philosophies between himself and Ferner as the primary reason for making the change, with Davidson wanting to emphasize offense and Ferner wanting to emphasize defense. This season, Everett had 102 goals in 42 games, and the Tips’ rate of 2.4 goals per game was the second-lowest in the WHL.
Ferner acknowledged the philosophical difference was valid.
“My philosophies aren’t really my philosophies, they’re the philosophies of the coaches I played for, and they’re great coaches,” Ferner said. “Would we have liked to have scored more goals? Absolutely. But I don’t know if this team is ready to score that many goals yet.
“There’s a lot of different ways to win games. I wasn’t going to change my philosophy, it was proven in the past with where I coached and played. I wasn’t going to coach looking over my shoulder.”
Despite the struggles scoring goals, Everett’s results had improved of late. The Tips, who are 16-24-0-2 and in fifth place in the U.S. Division, have won three of five since the holiday break and five of nine overall, moving back into playoff position in eighth place in the Western Conference. This despite having one of the youngest teams in the league.
But Ferner’s position was always tenuous because he was not hired by Davidson, but by Davidson’s predecessor, Doug Soetaert, who was dismissed himself last February.
“When you’re brought on by the previous GM, there’s always the thought in the back of your head that you might be the next guy to go,” Ferner said. “Typically they want their own guy in there. I thought we might have gotten over that hurdle. The way the team was going, even though it was a young group, I thought we had the kids going in the right direction.”
Ferner, who was a highly successful coach at the junior A level in Canada with the British Columbia Hockey League’s Vernon Vipers before coming to Everett, said he plans to remain in coaching. He stands by the way he conducted himself as Everett’s coach.
“Obviously there’s a big difference in philosophy in how the game should be played, but I won’t change the way I am as a coach or as a person,” Ferner said. “I treated the kids with the utmost respect, they liked to come to the rink, and the culture was good. Unfortunately, this is part of the game. It’s no different from a player getting traded or cut.
“There’s good young talent here, but the game requires hard work,” Ferner added. “Nothing in this life is easy. Nothing worthwhile is going to be given to you. What the kids have to understand is that if they’re going to be successful, whether it’s in the game or in life, they’re going to have to work for it. That’s the one thing I was trying to instill in them, which is work ethic.”
Check out Nick Patterson’s Silvertips blog at http://www.heraldnet.com/silvertipsblog, and follow him on Twitter at NickHPatterson.