For a guy who hopes to move up in the coaching ranks, the past hockey season provided a great education for Suneil Karod.
The Victoria Cougars head coach and general manager, not one to turn down an opportunity to learn more about the game, spent time with the Victoria Royals as a video analyst coach and has been a carded assistant with the B.C. Hockey League’s Powell River Kings the past five seasons.
But it was his last assignment that brought the most glory. He served as an assistant with the host Chilliwack Chiefs for the Royal Bank Cup national junior A championship tournament, which the BCHL club captured May 20 with a 4-2 win over Ontario’s Wellington Dukes.
“If you had have asked me four weeks ago if I thought about winning the RBC, I would have said ‘never,’ although it’s something that’s been on my mind,” said the 35-year-old Karod, who proudly accepted his gold medal and hoisted the prestigious trophy on the ice at Prospera Centre. “This is the longest into the spring I’ve ever been coaching.”
His role was to scout the other teams in the tournament live and on video, analyze from above what the Chiefs were doing well and not so well, and relay the information to head coach Brian Maloney, who was promoted to the top job barely a week before the first game. A friend since the two were roommates at a coaching clinic, Karod got a call from Maloney shortly after he took on the head coach’s role and immediately accepted the new assignment.
“I don’t think this team wins without Brian Maloney at the helm. He’s played pro, he gets it and he knows how to treat players,” said Karod, adding that he learned a lot working with Maloney and former Trail Smokeaters head coach/GM Cam Keith, also brought in just for the tournament.
The Chiefs got better as the tournament went on following an opening 2-1 overtime loss to the BCHL champion Wenatchee Wild. Chilliwack reeled off three straight round robin wins and beat Ottawa 3-2 in the semifinal before dispatching the Dukes with a come-from-behind victory.
The Cougars were a younger team than previous seasons and weren’t expected to go far. Still they managed to force a seventh game against Westshore in the opening round of the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League playoffs, only to lose 4-3 in OT.
The Royals job also kept Karod busy into spring, as they reached the second round of the Western Hockey League playoffs. And the Kings were also done by early April after reaching the BCHL semifinals.
Karod presided over a spring camp with the Cougars in early May that attracted 60 players – four were signed for next season. He expects some of the Cougars veterans to get a shot with junior A clubs next season, especially given his connections with Powell River and Chilliwack.
Aware there may be an assistant coach position coming up with Chilliwack next season, Karod said he remains committed to the Cougars, who host main camp Aug. 17 to 20 in Esquimalt. But if a situation comes up that allows him to move up the coaching ladder and get closer to his goal of coaching at the junior A level, however, he’ll seriously consider it, he said.
With four VIJHL championships to his credit, and three silver and two bronze medals from the Cyclone Taylor Cup provincials with the Cougars, Karod has long been a proponent of helping players secure opportunities to move up.
Now it may be time for him to look at reaching for the next brass ring himself.