WINNIPEG — It’s a bit of a homecoming for new assistant Winnipeg Jets coach Perry Pearn, who cut his NHL teeth with the old Jets just before they left for Phoenix in 1996.
"I didn’t want to leave when I left the last time," Pearn said Thursday at a press conference to announce his hiring. "I really enjoyed the year I coached there."
He was an assistant to head coach Terry Simpson in 1995-96 but left for the Ottawa Senators when the Jets headed south.
He admits that at the time, returning to Winnipeg within the NHL was something he thought would never be in the cards, with the way things were heading in the league for smaller-market teams.
"I always knew the fan base was there and the city loved the team but financially, the way the league had gone … smaller centres, even a team like Ottawa when I was there, were going through problems.
"To see where the league has come and to see what happened last year in Winnipeg was absolutely fantastic."
Pearn, 61, lost his assistant coaching job early last season with the struggling Montreal Canadiens, although he remained with them as a scout for the remainder of his contract.
It still rankles a bit, although he says coaches know what to expect.
"Obviously I was really disappointed with how things ended there. I felt like the first two years as a staff we had done a very good job as of maximizing the talent we were working with.
"The biggest disappointment for me was the lack of patience, eight games in the kind of decision that was made just seemed to be a bit premature."
But he was happy at the chance it provided for him to see a lot of teams he hadn’t seen much of in the West.
"One of the teams I got a chance to see a number of times was the Winnipeg Jets… When you coach in the East as long as I have, you start to lose contact (with the West)."
He already has lots of connections to the Jets and Winnipeg.
His daughter lives in the city and he once coached Jets general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff. He has remained friends with assistant GM Craig Heisinger.
Head coach Claude Noel says he’s pleased to add someone with Pearn’s extensive experience to his staff, although his exact role hasn’t yet been determined.
"To me it was very simple to make the decision this would be a smart addition to our staff," he said.
"At the end of the day this gives a better opportunity to win and his experience is very valuable."
The Jets also announced they had extended the contracts of their other assistant coaches — Charlie Huddy and Pascal Vincent, as well as goaltending coach Wade Flaherty and video coach Tony Borgford.
They also extended the contract of St. John’s IceCaps assistant coach Mark Morrison.
In the NHL, Pearn has been an assistant coach with the Ottawa Senators, New York Rangers and Canadiens. He spent three seasons with the Canadiens alongside Jacques Martin and worked as an assistant to Martin with the Senators from 1996-2004.
He also spent almost two decades at the university level, in the Western Hockey League and with Hockey Canada, as a gold-medal winning assistant coach and head coach with junior teams.