• July 6, 2020

NORTH AMERICAN HOCKEY LEAGUE: Fortier ready to go to work as new Jackalopes coach - Odessa American: Sports

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NORTH AMERICAN HOCKEY LEAGUE: Fortier ready to go to work as new Jackalopes coach

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Posted: Saturday, April 11, 2020 4:13 pm

Jason Fortier didn’t have to be sold on Odessa and the Permian Basin.

The Odessa Jackalopes newest head coach, announced Friday by the team, already had heard good things about the area before he began the interview process.

“I’ve known John Bossio and Don McKee for a long time and they’ve always talked about their time in Odessa,” Fortier said by phone from his home in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario.

“And I go back a long way with Tim Christian. So I knew enough about the city from a lot of other people and it was seeing what the vision was and the goal was for the organization that we talked about during the interview process.”

Bossio and McKee were two of the cornerstones of the Jackalopes’ franchise during its professional days, Bossio on the ice and McKee as the head coach.

Christian is the team’s current director of player personnel.

So, Fortier comes into the job with his eyes wide open, taking over a team that struggled the final three months of the 2019-20 North American Hockey League season before the abrupt end due to the coronavirus pandemic.

Fortier was the head coach of the Coquitlam Express of the British Columbia Hockey League for the past three seasons and led his team to a franchise record 47-9 record this past campaign, earning the league’s Coach of the Year honors.

A veteran of the junior, collegiate and professional ranks, Fortier knows exactly what he wants from the players he puts on the ice.

“I think compete is something that we’re all requesting from our players,” he said. “And it’s getting harder and harder to find kids with that desire to become robust.

“I’m a big fan of players that play with a chip on their shoulder, that play with their hair on fire.”

Another source of pride for Fortier is the number of players that he has moved from the junior ranks to college hockey, which is one of the building blocks of the NAHL.

At one time running camps to evaluate younger players, Fortier has maintained relationships with college coaches on both sides of the border. The fact that the players he sends to the next level are successful makes it that much easier for other coaches to trust Fortier when asking about a player’s skills.

In the past two seasons, he has seen 31 of his players move to the collegiate ranks.

“I think Jason’s going to be fantastic,” said Jackalopes president Rick Matchett. “He’s got a great pedigree, a great history and I’m excited to see what he can do here.

“I think, too, that he’s good at recruiting; he gets what it takes to recruit. And getting kids to the next level, that’s what attracts those kids from Minnesota, Michigan, because that’s what they are looking for.”

Fortier also is going to be looking for an organization that the community and Permian Basin can get behind.

He knows that means putting a successful, winning team on the ice each night, with players that the fans can interact with off the ice.

“I’ve said it before, I mean to win a championship,” Fortier said. “I don’t go into anything without trying to win.

“From the day I signed, our goal is to win a championship. I’ve won at different levels and it’s a community event and we want to get a lot of people involved.”

Odessa, TX

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