WHL  

Rockets fire head coach

UPDATE: 5 p.m.

Kelowna Rockets president and GM Bruce Hamilton says Monday's firing of head coach Jason Smith wasn't something he did on the spur of the moment.

Hamilton, speaking at a news conference outside the team's dressing room, says he has been contemplating the move for a few weeks.

"I didn't just make my mind up Friday night. I made my mind up a while ago, but it's working to find somebody that's going to be the replacement," said Hamilton.

"There's all kind of guys out there that want the job, but it's whether it's the quality of person that we want to come in. Obviously that has something to do with some of the timing."

Hamilton says he's still working on that replacement, but says by tomorrow, or before the weekend, a new coach will be in place.

Assistant coaches Kris Mallette and Travis Crickard are expected to run the bench during Tuesday's game with the Swift Current Broncos at Prospera Place. Both assistants have been retained, however, Hamilton says any decision going forward will be the new head coaches.

Hamilton didn't get into specifics in terms of why he fired Smith just 14 games into the season, but he did hint at looking for someone with more bite, and a coach who will play a more up-tempo game.

He also brought up discipline.

"I'm a real believer that discipline needs to be a big part of it. This team has been penalized regularly too much.

"And, I think that's going to be a big part of whoever comes in. A mandate to get back to staying on the ice and playing."

The Rockets lead the league in penalty minutes this season, and, over Smith's two previous years, they were number one in penalty minutes in 2016-17, and seventh last season.

Hamilton said he doesn't think the team is going where it needs to go, but didn't put all the blame on Smith.

He took a lot of the blame himself.

"It's my job to get the players here, and this is the year where we didn't have a real good group of players to start, and we're working hard at that now.

"I want to be fair to Jason, but the talent was part of it. He was doing the best he could with what we had.

"For years this team has been made up of some pretty dynamic skilled players, and we don't have a whole group of those right now. This all comes back to the trades for Leon Draisaitl and Josh Morrissey, when we gave up picks, and eventually you pay for that."


ORIGINAL STORY: 11:10 a.m.

The Kelowna Rockets have fired their head coach.

The WHL team posted the news on its website Monday morning.

General manager Bruce Hamilton said in the post that Jason Smith has been relieved of his duties.

“Any time you let someone go that is the quality of Jason Smith, it’s very tough," said Hamilton.

"However, the success of our hockey club ultimately falls with myself, and I feel at this time we need to go in a different direction. Jason is just a wonderful person, and we want to thank him for his time here."

Smith was hired by the Rockets in 2016 and completed two full seasons as head coach. In 2016-17, the team had a 45-22-5-0 record, while last season saw the Rockets go 43-22-5-2.

This year, the club is off to a slow 4-10-0-0 start.

Hamilton will offer more information at a press conference this afternoon.



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