The Kootenay Ice raided Sherwood Park for the second time on Thursday, hiring Jay Henderson to serve as an assistant to head coach Ryan McGill.
Henderson, who hails from the same city as his boss, has signed a two-year contract and is eager to get to work with the club.
“It didn’t take a lot of deliberating,” Henderson said. “Me and my wife talked it over and it’s a heck of an opportunity for myself and my family, so I’m excited about it.”
Henderson, like his predecessor Chad Kletzel, has ties to the Kootenay franchise, suiting up for the Edmonton Ice from 1996-1998, when McGill was coaching his first tenure. Following his four-year career in major-junior hockey, Henderson graduated to the AHL, winning three Calder Cup titles, each with a different team.
While playing pro, Henderson and McGill reunited in the AHL when the Ice head coach moved up to lead the bench of the Hartford Wolf Pack after winning the Memorial Cup in 2002.
“It’s nice having that familiarity with both Jeff and Ryan and being somewhat of an alumni way back in the day before moving to Cranbrook,” continued Henderson. “I’ve been following them all along, even when I was playing pro, keeping tabs, and they’ve been fairly successful, so to me, it’s a great opportunity to join an organization like that.”
Henderson was picked in the ninth round of the 1997 NHL Draft by the Boston Bruins and and enjoyed a six-year career in the AHL before moving over to professional leagues in Germany, Austria and England.
He also got a taste of the show, playing in 33 games with the Bruins over three years.
He was the captain for Boston’s farm team in 2004/05 and was nominated as the Man of the Year by his team three times over his AHL career, which recognizes community service.
After retiring, he stepped into coaching and has been an assistant coach with the Northern Alberta Institute of Technology (NAIT) Ooks, where he helped mentor Ice graduate Steele Boomer for a season.
During his tenure with NAIT, Henderson also worked with Hockey Alberta as a head coach for the Alberta Cup and as an instructor with Team Pacific.
Ice GM Jeff Chynoweth said he and McGill were impressed at a few things on Henderson’s resume.
“Jay’s a former player, he did play professional hockey, he won three Calder Cup championships, he’s been a leader throughout his career, and he’s been involved in the coaching business the last couple of years giving back to the game,” Chynoweth said.
“I think, from our end, he fit the criteria.”
Chynoweth remembers Henderson as an exciting player who would bring people out of their seats when he skated with the Ice, and adds that his enthusiasm will build a rapport with the players.
McGill said he noticed the same thing during the interview process.
“One of the biggest things, is he’s got the personality that the kids will really, really enjoy him,” said McGill.
Henderson, 34, and his wife, Megan, are parents to two young children; daughter Mila (5) and son Seamus (3).