It's been a long time since Karl Taylor has laced up the blades and played hockey in North Bay.
"I was 15 when I left there, I was playing for Larry Keenan and Larry was a huge influence on me," said Taylor.
The North Bay product recalls playing on the first ever North Bay midget Trappers team in the inaugural season in Great North Midget League.
"We had practices in Trout Creek and he would grab the ropes out and drag guys around the ice for conditioning," he recalled.
Since then Taylor's hockey journey has taken him all over the continent. From playing CIS hockey in New Brunswick in the east; to coaching the WHL's Portland Winterhawks on the west coast.
"It has been a long road, let's be honest," admitted Taylor.
But things are starting to come together for Taylor, who was named the American Hockey League's coach of the year in his second season behind the bench of the Nashville Predators affiliate team the Milwaukee Admirals.
"People do not understand because you are an overnight success because you won that award right? It has been 20 some years and I have two young kids, they are 14 and 15 now and we have probably lived in five states now," said Taylor.
"There is lots of good with coaching but there is also a lot of pain that comes with it. Right now we are very happy where we are. Obviously, we are in a good spot, things are going well.
Under Taylor’s leadership, he captained the Admirals ship to the best record in the club's 19 seasons of play in the American Hockey League in 2019-20, going 41-14-5-3 (90 points, .714) and capturing the Macgregor Kilpatrick Trophy as regular-season champions before the season ended abruptly due to COVID-19.
See related: Local coach named AHL's coach of the year
At 49, Taylor does not deny a head coaching job in the National Hockey League is something he still thinks about a lot.
"I think there is the realization a few years back that I can coach at the NHL level, but I have no idea if that is ever going to happen for me but that is okay," he said.
"I am just very happy doing what we are doing here in Milwaukee; being part of the Nashville Predators and helping them develop players but we also want to win. We are one of the few teams that have independent ownership here as a lot of the teams are owned by their respective NHL teams so we have a real commitment here to help out our owner and we want to help him have success and also help out the front office people sell tickets and all the things they are trying to do."
Through his journey, Taylor has bumped into some North Bay players who are also trying to make it to the NHL. Taylor, when an assistant with the Texas Stars, got to work with local goaltender Colton Point, 22, while more recently Taylor has brought up North Bay's Kenny Appleby, 25, who was signed by the Admirals last summer.
He says goalies like Point and Appleby have to be patient.
"Goaltending takes a very long time to develop," said Taylor.
"It is very rare to see a young man step in and take a league over or jump up. It takes time and I know Colton has been up and down through the American League and the ECHL. I had some interaction with him before I came to Milwaukee then obviously Ken, we had him up here. We had him in our rookie camps. We did an exit meeting the other day on Zoom with him.
Taylor says they are both young guys trying to chase it but they just cannot rush it.
"It takes time," he said.
"It might be different timing for each individual goaltender. I learned that through my experiences with Jack Campbell who is a very good talented goalie who is in the NHL with the Leafs. He's a great individual, great guy but he struggled with us in Texas and he needed to change organizations and found his curve and then really started to develop. He did a great job and now he's playing for the Toronto Maple Leafs. It is awesome to see a couple of guys from North Bay out doing their thing and that should be inspirational for everyone else playing and chasing the dream."
While Taylor does not get home as much as he'd like, he would be proud to be the next North Bay native to coach in the National Hockey League.
"We don't get back as much as we'd like but I would really like to get back a little bit more because it is a huge part of who I am and where I came from and it is definitely something I carry with me," said Taylor.