AMHERST, N.S. – There was a time when the Amherst Stadium was among the Maritime Junior Hockey League’s hardest buildings to play in.
It’s something Doug Doull wants to see happen again as he assumes the head coaching duties with the Amherst CIBC Wood Gundy Ramblers from Jeff LeBlanc, who is stepping aside to focus on being the general manager.
“One thing I would want to establish early is an identity, especially when you’re thinking about Cumberland County and Amherst. You want to see teams come and not have an easy time playing in our arena,” the 45-year-old Doull said. “From my standpoint, when I try to develop players it’s all about skill and speed, but you also have to have that compete level.”
Doull resigned from the Pictou County Weeks Crushers following last season after the club finished out of the playoffs for the second consecutive year. There was also a change of ownership in New Glasgow. He’s happy to be back in the league and working with LeBlanc.
The duo spent several seasons together with the former Dieppe Commandos and won the MHL championship in 2016 and attended the Fred Page Cup.
“I’m looking forward to getting started. I have a lot of familiarity with the Ramblers’ organization and it’s going to be good to work with Jeff again,” Doull said. “It helps from his end as far as what he expects from me as a coach and I think our philosophies are aligned. I’ve watched and coached against his team enough to know there are some good pieces there and I know what they can do.”
During his playing career, Doull, a native of Glace Bay who now lives in the Moncton area, played with the Boston Bruins and Washington Capitals while also playing in the Arizona Coyotes, Calgary Flames and Toronto Maple Leafs organizations – winning AHL championships as a player in 2001 in St. John’s and 2006 in Hershey, Penn.
Doull is getting a team in transition. A significant portion of the roster that hosted the 2019 Fred Page Cup in early May is moving on, including starting goalie Matt Williams, forwards Will Lafford, Casey Fox and Matt Green and defencemen Dawson Grenier and Hunter McIntyre.
Also, forward Aidan McFarland was traded to Miramichi and defenceman Thomas Ashe was dealt to Summerside at the MHL draft in mid-June. Jacob Melanson, who played with the club in the playoffs and Fred Page Cup, was selected in the first round of the QMJHL draft by the Quebec Remparts.
Still, he is happy with who can return including goalie Joel Goguen, forwards Stephen Fox, Caleb Rich, Cole Waugh and Stephen Fox as well as defencemen Alex Wynter and Bradley Dawe.
“Anytime you come out of hosting or attending a Fred Page Cup tournament there will be holes to fill, but for the younger players returning there will be an opportunity to have career years and use that experience,” he said. “They now know they can play at the top of the food chain. Everyone is going to have to elevate their game.”
LeBlanc confirmed earlier Thursday that he will only be the GM moving forward.
“I’m stepping aside as coach for personal reasons. Coaching takes up a lot of time, not that being GM doesn't take a lot of time too, but it’s an everyday thing with practices and game preparation and I have a very young family,” LeBlanc said. “It’s a personal decision I made along with my family. I put them first for once. Every coach knows it’s not the two hours at the rink every day, but there’s a lot more to it and it’s a decision that I made. I want to stay involved and I’m happy to be working with Doug again.”
When LeBlanc arrived in Amherst four seasons ago, the Ramblers had missed the playoffs for two consecutive years. The team missed the playoffs in his first season, and then knocked off the division-leading Crushers in the first round of the playoffs the following season before getting knocked out in the first round both last year and in 2017-18 by the South Shore Lumberjacks.
Doull will also be assistant GM with the Ramblers.