“I really feel like we have two number one goalies,” Coach Jerome Bechard explained to a small group of season ticket holders before one of the few homes games here in Columbus. “It is a luxury to have both of these goalies.”
Of course, he’s talking about his latest catch, Lukas Hafner. Hafner happens to be the cousin of Rusty Hafner, who played with the Cottonmouths last season. But he is confident in saying his two goalies are here to stay.
“Lukas is the type of player like ‘Lowsy’ (Andrew Loewen),” Coach continued.
But he isn’t just about praise to his goalies. Even though the season is still early, he’s confident in the team he’s built.
“The Snakes are playing the style of game that we are known for: Aggressive, physical, and controlled. We have some big hitters, and they are doing their job. Our forwards are playing great two-way hockey, defensively and offensively. The defense has really stepped up as well.”
Coach Bechard is confident he has a team that will take him into the playoffs. Answering the tough questions on what happened last season, he doesn’t apologize, and hints that no one’s job on this team is safe. It’s a new year, no where to go but up.
The Sin Bin: What do you think it’s going to take to bring fans in to Cottonmouths hockey?
Jerome Bechard: I think the biggest thing is to get our players out in the community and known with social media. We need to have them all over with get-to-know videos, and of course, win some hockey games with a hard style of hockey.
TSB: Is there going to be a more visible presence for the players this year?
JB: Yes, that is one of our main focuses. Barney Slayton, our Community Relations Director, has done a great job with appearances and such. We have a reading program where we visit schools on Tuesdays to help promote education and to help with getting our players known as well.
TSB: What changes are you going to implement from your experiences last year?
JB: I think the biggest is to demand more from our players in the aspect of work ethic, team play, and doing the ‘whatever it takes to win’ attitude. The other is not being as patient with our players from the stand point that if someone is getting called up, waiting for them to return.
TSB: What are you expecting your Captain to bring to the table this year that is different from last year? What if he doesn’t meet your expectation?
JB: Kyle Johnson was and is our Captain. I expect him to be more of a physical presence and lead by example. If there needs to be a change in momentum I expect him to throw a big hit, or get in a fight, something to change the momentum of the game. If it doesn’t happen, I will look for someone that will be able to fulfill that roll.
TSB: Drawing from last year’s roster, when you have lost players to ECHL teams. You’ve made sacrifices and lost opportunities. How are you going to change that this year?
JB: I won’t wait for players. I will actively be looking to replace players. If someone loses a job, so be it.
TSB: In the quest for the President’s Cup, what are you personally going to change?
JB: In order to win the President’s Cup, you need everyone on the team to be selfless and be willing to sacrifice for the team. We need toughness and skill and quick play. But, the biggest, is to play as a team.
TSB: What style of coaching would you say that you have?
JB: I believe I am a player’s coach that is fair and truly cares about them. Working hard is contagious. That will generate wins, which will make it fun to come to the rink.
TSB: Are you looking for a more finesse or physical team?
JB: I think to be successful, you need both. You need guys that play physical, but also can make plays.
TSB: Do you think holding a dual role as General Manager and Coach helps or hinders the team, as your time is split?
JB: It is tougher to do both, but I have been fortunate to have a reliable office staff that does a great job with running the office. So, I can really rely on them.
TSB: Who do you think is the greatest rival for the Cottonmouths?
JB: I think in the past it has been Huntsville and Knoxville, but in the past couple years, it has changed a bit. Macon and possibly Peoria.
TSB: As a coach, what is your game day prep at home and on the road?
JB: Prepare for a morning skate by having a meeting to talk over our opponent’s tendencies, have our skate, then get prepared for the game.
TSB: Can you name a time you’ve gotten mad and had a no-puck practice, putting the players through their paces, pushing them physically?
JB: I don’t think I have ever done that. I have skated off the ice when we weren’t sharp and players weren’t focused.
TSB: What is some fun team stuff you use to bring your players together?
JB: We have gone out to Fort Benning and have been put through some Army obstacle courses, repelled walls and such. We have golf tournaments and softball games.
TSB: What are some traditions that you’d like to pass down to the team as a player and as a coach?
JB: We have a couple of sayings that we have done for years. I can’t vocalize it for you, we pick a win song every year.
TSB: What is something you’d like Snakes fans to know about this upcoming season?
JB: Just that you can expect us to get back to Cottonmouths Hockey. Fast paced and physical.
TSB: Separating the GM from the Coach, what are your frustrations as a coach and then as a GM?
JB: I think for both it is the same. That is, you put so much time and effort into something, and you don’t get rewarded with success. Whether that is in the win or loss column, or you don’t see a full stadium. When I know we have done everything we can do, other than physically going and picking people up and bringing them to the game.
Some of Coach’s favorites:
Snack -Dill Pickle Chips
Holiday – every day is a holiday, because the job I have, isn’t work
Meal -Steak and twice-baked potato
Drill in practice -3 shot drill (TSB: Look it up…it’s crazy)
Android or iPhone -iPhone
Baseball or Football -Football, unless the Blue Jays are on. GO JAYS
So, in keeping with the ten crazy questions that I have the players answer as well, Coach Bechard gave us his answers!
Using only ONE word; how would your teammates describe you? Fierce
If you were an MMA fighter, what would your walkout song be? Brooks & Dunn, Hard Working Man
Name one thing on your bucket list. Travel to Italy
If you could have any super power, what would it be? Why? Predict the future, to help people not make mistakes.
What is your go-to pizza topping? Meat Lovers
What would your spirit animal be? Lion
What is your nickname? Boom Boom
If your teammate lost a bet and had to sing karaoke, what song would you make him sing? Dolly Parton, Working 9 to 5
What is your favorite hockey team/player? Edmonton Oilers/Mark Messier
If you could meet anyone famous, who would it be? Blake Shelton