Scotty Bowman did it in the NHL, Brian Kilrea in the OHL, and now Beaver Valley Nitehawks coach Terry Jones is poised to celebrate his 1,000th win – an accomplishment unprecedented in the history of the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League (KIJHL).
The 52-year-old Montrose resident is two wins away from the milestone, having accumulated 759 regular season and 239 playoff victories for a 998-win total in his 23rd year with the Nitehawks. An incredible accomplishment to be sure, but it is the way he went about it that is truly inspiring.
“When I started coaching, well before the Nitehawks, it was a ‘winning is everything’ attitude,” said Jones. “Now I’ve flip-flopped and believe coaching is more about developing young men into adults and good citizens, and hockey is the vehicle we do that. As a result of that attitude, we’ve won a lot of games, we’ve won some championships.
“When you change your goals of winning to just building a good team, a good group of guys that care about each other, I think anything can happen.”
Hank Deadmarsh and Pat Corrado recruited Jones to help coach the Nitehawks back in 1996, and while initially it took some convincing, it didn’t take long before Jones embraced the role.
“My first year, I wasn’t totally in, and said I’d come to practices, make home games and something like that,” said Jones. “I think by about November, it was, ‘Okay I’m in.’”
That team went on to win the KIJHL title and Cyclone Taylor Cup, and since then, Jones’ teams have won 11 Neil Murdoch Division titles, eight KIJHL championships, four Cyclone Taylor Cups, and a Keystone Cup.
“(As coaches) We preached commitment, so I needed to get committed too … and it’s been a pretty intense commitment for a long period of time.”
With over 1,450 games behind the bench, Jones’ winning percentage is an incredible 69 per cent. To put it in perspective, Bowman won 1,467 games, with a 63 per-cent victory rate over a 40-year career with the St. Louis Blues, Montreal Canadiens, Buffalo Sabres, Pittsburgh Penguins, and Detroit Red Wings, while Kilrea won 1,193 regular season games as coach of the Ottawas 67s of the Ontario Junior Hockey League from 1974 to 2009 with a 55 per cent success rate.
One of the most notable aspects of Jones’ 23 years with the Hawks, is that under his tutelage, the team has yet to endure a losing season, having made the postseason every year with a winning record. And while Jones appreciates the value of 1,000 wins, he attributes much of that success to the quality of his support system.
“I’ve really been blessed to coach with really good coaches. We’ve had so many good guys that really enjoy being at the rink together as a staff. And we’ve had really good players. In the early years, we were blessed with such talented local players, and you can name so many of them from the Jackmans to the Morissettes, Gawryletzes, to Burnetts and Limberts.”
Yet to see many of his former players join the Nitehawks and other teams as coaches, is as satisfying as it gets.
“Guys that go play pro is one thing, but guys like the Cominottos, Morisettes, Drakes, and then with the Major Midget team (Kootenay Ice) Mason Spear, (Kris) Boyce, and (Kyle) Hope all coaching and contributing, it makes it all worthwhile.”
Granted, Jones’ most important support system is his family. His sons Connor and Kellen grew up around the team, then played for the Hawks, before going on to Junior Hockey, NCAA, and ultimately professional careers.
His wife, Loretta, has been a constant supporter, often offering critical advice. Terry’s sister’s family is involved with billeting and volunteering, and his parents Terry Sr. and Darlene are a fixture at every game.
Also, the early morning skates with Terry Sr.’s breakfast club is both educational and entertaining and one that strengthens the Nitehawks’ family bond.
Throughout it all, Terry Sr. has been quietly keeping the stats, and is his son’s biggest fan.
“I hate to sound like a proud Dad, but it really is an astounding achievement,” said Terry Sr. “I mean, who in the hell could do this?”
For B.V. General Manager Jamie Cominotto, who has been with the team since 2009, Jones’ ability to maintain such a high competitive level and build and rebuild teams that succeed every year is a credit to Jones, his family, and the culture he has built with the players, coaches, the community, and volunteers.
“It takes a special individual to coach hockey for as long as he has, and to go through it with his boys own experience, and to keep going. It takes not only a strong individual but a strong family. His wife Loretta is a huge part of the success of the Nitehawks because she puts up with Terry being on the road trips, and with the boys away, he’s been able to continue his career as a coach.
“And just the way the game has changed in 23 years, to be able to adapt year after year, it takes a pretty strong individual and a pretty open minded individual to do that.”
The 1,000-win milestone can be completed as soon as this weekend, when the Nitehawks hit the road with a stop in Kimberley tonight and in Castlegar versus the Rebels on Saturday.
B.V. returns to the Hawks Nest on Tuesday night with a game against the Spokane Braves at 7:30 p.m., so stay tuned.
“We’re not there, yet,” added Jones. “We’re just taking things one game at a time right now.”