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Longtime NHL assistant Guy Charron finds happiness behind Kamloops Blazers bench

NHL.com @NHL

VANCOUVER, B.C. - For years, Guy Charron searched in vain for more job satisfaction as a head coach.

He has finally found it in Kamloops, B.C.

After taking over the Blazers coaching job on Nov. 23, the 61-year-old Charron has led the underdog Blazers to the WHL playoffs. They trail the heavily favoured Vancouver Giants 2-0 in their best-of-seven first-round series with Game 3 set for Tuesday in Kamloops.

A longtime NHL assistant, Charron spent a year away from the game after he was let go by the Florida Panthers. He then tried to catch on with a WHL club so that he could be closer to his two children and three grandchildren in Calgary.

"I needed a different challenge," said Charron. "I needed a challenge for me."

But there were few takers until last fall, when the Blazers fired coach Barry Smith. Intrigued by the potential opportunity, Charron called general manager Craig Bonner.

When Bonner offered him the job on an interim basis, Charron accepted. He knew from experience that the club could still decide to go in a different direction at the end of the season, but was more than willing to take the chance.

"As an assistant coach, I'd done it for so long that it wasn't as challenging and I was losing a little bit of interest," the Verdun, Que., native said in a recent interview. "Granted, not being successful in Florida might have caused that to some extent. But I kind of got worn out a little bit and I was just looking for something that would spark me back."

The Blazers were 8-7-2-0 when Smith was fired on Oct. 26 and then went 3-6-0-1 under assistant coach Scott Ferguson. With Charron at the helm, the re-charged Blazers posted a 21-19-0-3 record to finish seventh in the Western Conference.

The turnaround was enough to earn him some job security. Before the playoffs began, Charron signed a two-year contract extension.

Since he took over, Blazers players and management have raved about having the chance to tap into Charron's considerable experience.

Charron has had NHL stops in Calgary, Long Island, Anaheim, Montreal and Florida and also coached in the 1988 Winter Olympics and overseas. He held interim head coaching jobs with the Flames and Ducks, but never received a permanent posting.

His success as a head coach came with Landshut EV of the German League and the IHL's Grand Rapids Griffins in the late '90s. Both clubs fell just short of championships while he was behind the bench.

While he's now reviving his career as a head coach, he is also attempting to rejuvenate a former Kamloops dynasty. Five-time league champions and three-time Memorial Cup winners, the Blazers have not advanced beyond the WHL quarter-finals since 1998-99.

But Charron relishes a chance to be back in the playoffs. Florida never qualified in his three seasons there and his other NHL clubs had modest post-season success. He never reached the playoffs in a 12-year NHL playing career, either.

"As a player or a coach, to be in the playoffs, that's what your goal is," said Charron, who capped his junior playing career by winning a Memorial Cup with the Montreal Junior Canadiens in 1969. "Unfortunately, sometimes . . . you're one piece of the puzzle."

"For me, I'm always excited when I am part of the playoffs because I know that it's the most exciting part of the year," he added.

As he and his wife Michele make plans to settle permanently in Western Canada, Charron is enjoying being a mentor for potential NHL players.

"At the age where I'm at, I'm at peace with myself," said Charron. "I don't know of any other way that I could express it."

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