Behind the bench and away from the rink, Jason McKee is settling in as the Vancouver Giants’ new head coach.
“The biggest thing is, I wanted to get to the next level,” he said, of his decision to join the Giants prior to the start of the 2016/17 Western Hockey League campaign. “The way it worked out, Vancouver was looking for a guy, and it was a market that – if I ever had the opportunity to get involved with – it’s what I wanted to do. So it kind of worked out for both sides.”
It was announced June 2 that McKee was hired as the Giants bench boss after serving as the head coach and general manager of the Spruce Grove Saints of the Alberta Junior Hockey League the past six seasons.
During McKee’s head coaching tenure, the Saints played in the AJHL finals on five occasions, winning the league championship three times.
A two-time AJHL Coach of the Year, McKee was also named the Canadian Junior A Coach of the Year for the 2013/14 season.
Now comes a whole new challenge. With key players out of the lineup due to injuries, or being away at NHL training camps, the Giants opened the season with back-to-back losses to the Everett Silvertips, followed by a 7-6 setback to the visiting Prince George Cougars on Tuesday.
“We’re missing a significant amount of players,” McKee said. “We’re playing with a real young team, now, and it is what it is. No one’s feeling sorry for you. We’ve got to go out and play. It’s an opportunity for our young guys to play a lot of minutes and get better, and there’s no better way to learn than playing in the games.”
Away from the rink, McKee, 37, lives in Tsawwassen with his wife Carey-Ann and young daughters Brianna and Brynn.
“It’s been great,” McKee said. “Everyone around us has been really supportive. With regards to life in general outside of hockey with school and housing and all that stuff, we feel very fortunate. We’ve got a great place, a great school, and we’re able to tie everything together, so we feel real happy with the way things have come together.”