There was a new suit on the Guelph Storm bench Friday at the Sleeman Centre.
Jake Harris made his debut as an assistant coach for the Storm in their 4-1 loss to the Kitchener Rangers.
Harris found out earlier this week that his OHL playing career was over due to accumulated concussions. He still hopes to play university hockey at some point, but there is the possibility his playing days are done for good.
“Ever since it’s been up in the air whether I would be able to return to play the team has been asking the league whether I would be able to get behind the bench,” Harris said of his coaching debut.
“It felt pretty good. It’s a lot better than being up in the press box,” said Harris, 21. “It’s kind of cool to see the game from the other side.”
Harris said he didn’t say much, occasionally giving some tips to his former teammates.
“Just being around the game is what I love most about it,” he said.
The Georgetown native hasn’t played since Jan. 9, when a hit from the London Knights’ Nick Jones knocked him out. While Harris said he felt fine a day later, consultation with a concussion expert and an examination of his medical history, which includes several concussions, led to the decision to stop playing for the foreseeable future.
“I’m extremely grateful. When I found out I wouldn’t be able to play the rest of the season I just thought I would be sent home. But we had a meeting with my family, Mr. Kelly and coach Skalde and they asked me to stick around and help in whatever way I could with the team,” Harris said.
With his playing future in doubt, he said he’s definitely thought about a future in coaching.
“I’m going to get reevaluated after the year … I’m still hopeful I can play again eventually. That’s still the main goal for me,” Harris said.
Friday’s loss to Kitchener, the second in four days, was pretty much a one-goal game, as the Rangers scored twice in the final two minutes of play, including a Nick Magyar empty-netter just as the clock was running out.
Liam Stevens gave the Storm a one-goal lead early in the first period, but Kitchener answered with two of their own to make it 2-1 after 20 minutes. The score stayed that way, with goaltenders Michael Giugovaz for Guelph and Dawson Carty at the other end taking centre stage.
The Storm had a chance to tie it late in the game when Kitchener’s Connor Hall was whistled for delay of game. Guelph had a couple of good scoring chances with three minutes on the clock but couldn’t convert.
The deal was sealed when Guelph’s C.J. Garcia was penalized for a slash with 1:28 left on the clock.
Guelph plays in Niagara Falls Saturday and in Sarnia on Sunday.
Next home game is Friday when the Ottawa 67’s visit.