Pursuit is sports feature series highlighting athletes, coaches, and staff and significant sporting events from North Bay and the surrounding area.
He’s been a part of the organization since 2017 and he’s now approaching a milestone – assistant coach Josh Dale is just five wins shy of 200 behind the bench of the Powassan Voodoos.
“It means a lot,” says Dale. “This is going to be my seventh season with the Voodoos and I honestly didn’t know that I was approaching 200 wins until (Voodoos general manager) Chris Dawson approached me and told me that I was five wins back and I’m looking forward to accomplishing that.”
Dale says since joining the Voodoos he has had the privilege of working with some great coaches in Powassan.
“It started with Scott Wray who reached out to me and asked if I would be interested in joining the team. I told him I would have to think about it because it is a huge commitment and there is a lot of travelling involved and I have a family to think about,” says Dale who didn’t end up joining the Voodoos until after Wray got the call to join the North Bay Battalion of the Ontario Hockey League.
“Then Beau Moyer took over and reached out and asked if I would join and I committed to the team and since then I’ve been able to work under different guys, some great guys over the years.”
And he is once again alongside Head Coach Peter Goulet and Assistant Coach Josh Hardiman as the Voodoos opened up the 2023-2024 season this past weekend.
“I’m learning so much from them. Every year is an adventure. I know the guys and the coaching staff always have a great time throughout the year and we are looking forward to whatever the year brings.”
He has been a part of some successful seasons with the Powassan Voodoos, joining one year after the team won their first, and to date only, NOJHL Championship, sweeping their way through the post-season with a perfect 12-0 record.
Dale has been a part of four post-season runs with the Voodoos, getting as far as the 2019 NOJHL Championship series, which ended in a 4-0 series loss to the Hearst Lumberjacks. In the ensuing years, the Voodoos, and the rest of the NOJHL, saw two post-season schedules cancelled as the 2020 season ended prematurely and the 2021 season was cancelled entirely, due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Dale says winning is the priority, but as an assistant coach, he says it's part of his goal to prepare these players for whatever comes next in their lives.
“The commitment from the players is huge at this level,” he says. “I love seeing these players, right from day one back at spring camp, and to see these players grow into great hockey players and fine young men is unbelievable. You make connections that will last a lifetime. Just the other day I was golfing during men's night and I ran into some former players of ours and it’s like no time has passed. It’s great to see them out and being a part of our community and forging that bond with them is something you can’t ever take for granted.”
He says part of that is just from playing in a league in northern Ontario.
“It’s very special to be up here playing in the north. There’s a lot of travel involved, a lot of time on the bus and you end up spending a lot of time together where you create a strong bond with everyone and I’m looking forward to that again this year.”
Dale says as they get geared up for what will be another long, but entertaining season, the focus is on being aggressive out of the gate.
“We’re going full throttle the entire season, start to finish.”
Dale has no plans on ending his run at 200 wins, as he’s looking forward to many more years as the Powassan Voodoos assistant coach. However, he says he does have some post-retirement plans in the works.
“I was telling the players that when I’m done coaching, I’m going to end up writing a book called ‘Life on the Bus’ all about northern hockey, the junior hockey lifestyle and telling those stories of what it was like to be a part of this.”
If you have a story idea for “Pursuit” send Matt an email at [email protected]