MACON, Ga- So what’s it been like for new Macon Mayhem head coach Zac Desjardins on the threshold of training camp, his first as a head coach?
“Honestly, it’s been a bit of a mini-hurricane in my head,” Desjardins said.
For Desjardins, being in Macon as a head coach was not in his plans as the summer began, as he had planned to work some youth hockey camps in California.
That changed when the Macon Mayhem had an opening at head coach following Kevin Kerr stepping away from the position, creating an opportunity. The Mayhem and General Manager Blair Floyd reached out to Desjardins, an assistant with the ECHL’s Tulsa Oilers for the past four years. Now, he’s the third head coach in team history.
“I wasn’t really looking at doing anything this summer. But I got a call from Blair, we started talking and since then it’s been like, ‘go, go, go, go.’ “ Desjardins said. “Like other teams. I’m sure, this has been a weird year trying to find players. There have been some long nights on the phone trying to find players. I sort of did some of this at Tulsa. It’s not been too crazy; I’m just trying to get caught up.”
So why Macon?
For Desjardins, it was in part because he felt the time was right to make a move to head coach after being on the staff of Rob Murray at Tulsa.
“One thing that interested me was that I wanted to see where I was in my career and make the jump to head coach. With Rob, I learned a lot from him about pro hockey,” Desjardins said. “A lot of people think that ‘hockey is hockey,’ and it’s not. As you move up the ranks, it’s more of a controlled environment at the pro level. Moving up, I wanted to see if I could apply that and see if I had the knowledge and drive to give it a go as a head coach.”
So what from Murray does Desjardins hope to carry over to the Cherry Blossom Capital?
“The biggest thing I want to convert over is that I’m more of a blue-collar type hockey guy,” Desjardins said. “You have guys who are fast and skilled, but it’s still about getting up the ice, scoring and protecting the net…it’s a basic game, don’t overcomplicate.”
Another takeaway from coaching under Murray?
“To be honest with those around you,” Desjardins said. “Sometimes, guys get away from that. If you are honest and true to the game, it’ll treat you back ten-fold.”
Desjardins relocated to Macon last week, where he’s been getting to know to city, even going to a ZZ Topp concert since arriving. Along with him? His dog, Zamboni, a boxer that he has had for eight years.
“He’s met everyone in the office and let them know he’s the boss,” Desjardins said. “He’s been a rink dog, I’ve had him for eight years and always been at the rink.”
There’s some degree of sentimentality for Desjardins in being the head coach in Macon. He counts John Paris, former head coach of the Macon Whoopee of the CHL from 1996 to 1999 as well as the IHL’s Atlanta Knights from 1993 to 1996, as one of his biggest mentors within hockey.
“I’ve talked to (Paris) a few times about it. He’s told me a lot of stories about his time here in Macon and Atlanta, he loved Georgia. You sort of look up to a guy like that and now, I’m sort of following his footsteps being here in Macon, trying not to let him down,” Desjardins said. “It’s a bit of pressure with him having been here. I want to sort of keep his status here good with me kind of being one of his hockey sons. He’s given me some pointers on places to go. It’s good to be here with him knowing some people here and knowing that if I have a question, he can point me in the right direction. So far, it’s been great.”
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