By Tim Morris
As a former head coach in the Central Canada Hockey League (CCHL), Jeff Fox has seen the success of the Ottawa Junior Senators from the outside.
“The Junior Senators are definitely the standard of the league as to how a franchise is run,” he pointed out.
As an assistant on new head coach Charles Lavigne‘s staff, Fox now has a first-hand, insider look at what has made Ottawa the league’s top team.
“The players play for each other, it’s definitely a team mentally, it’s team first,” he said. “It starts with the culture. It’s in the DNA of team totally.”
Fox, who served as head coach and general manager of the CCHL’s Rockland Nationals (before stepping down in ’22) prior to joining the Junior Senators, is looking forward to helping his new team continue to be the face of the league.
“It’s exciting,” he remarked. “It’s like a fresh start, a challenge of learning new players.
And Charlie is committed to maintaining the standard that has been set here. “I’m looking forward to helping him to that.”
Besides his years of coaching experience in the CCHL, first as an assistant coach and then head coach/GM at Rockland, Fox brings an added defensive mentality to the Junior Senators, whose modus operandi over the years has been shutting down the opposition’s attack.
It’s no surprise that Fox patrolled the blue line in his junior hockey playing days with the Hawkesbury Hawks.
“My number-one priority will be getting our defensemen to play within our structure,” said Fox, who will also be running the Ottawa penalty-killing unit.
Fox went on to point out that both he and the Junior Sens like to employ two-way defenders. “You have to be able to play both sides of the puck. It’s non-negotiable.”
The goal is a fast and smooth transition from defense to offense.
“The quicker we can move the puck forward the quicker we can start our offense,” he explained, adding that the quick transition often leads to odd-man rushes and scoring opportunities.
Fox and Lavigne know each other well. Interestingly, Lavigne was Fox’s assistant at Rockland.
When Lavigne called asking Fox to join his staff, it was music to his ears. “I was already looking to get back into coaching,” Fox said.
Coaching has been Fox’s way of staying in the sport. He knew his limitations as a player and that there weren’t going to be many playing opportunities beyond junior hockey.
“I always loved the game, it’s something I’m passionate about, and I can help young players,” he said.
Fox began his post-playing career in 2010 first as a scout, before joining Rockland. With his knowledge of the CCHL as a player and coach, Fox knows what it takes to succeed in the league.
He likes what he’s seen of the Junior Senators through the pre-season and first few matches of the start of the 2023-24 campaign.
“The back end (defense) is our strength,” he noted. “I think we’ll do well. They’re a hard-working group.”
Just like their assistant coach.