Laurie Barron has been let go as head coach of the Mariners. TINA COMEAU PHOTO
By Tina Comeau
Laurie Barron is disappointed that he won’t be serving as head coach of the Yarmouth Junior A Mariners any longer.
“You’d like to leave with your last game being a win. But I’ve been around a long while and I understand that’s all part of it,” Barron told the Yarmouth Vanguard after he was informed by the Mariners’ team owner on April 7 that he no longer would be the team’s head coach and general manager.
Team owner Mitch Bonnar says the decision was based, in large part, on the performance of the team over the past two seasons, most notably in the playoffs. Bonnar said it was time for a change.
The Mariners didn't advance past the mini-series in this year’s MHL playoffs and the year before they were knocked out in the first round round by Amherst. Of the two, it was the failure to get past the mini-series that had the biggest sting. The Mariners lost to the fifth place Valley Wildcats.
“No one is more disappointed in losing out in the two-out-of-three-game round than I am,” Barron says. “That was certainly disappointing. And the year before going out in the first round…that year we had set a record for the best winning percentage in the team’s history. But losing out in the first round puts a bad spin on that season as well.”
In hockey a team is rated on how it performed in the playoffs. By this stage of the game the regular season, whether successful or not, doesn’t really matter anymore. Barron agrees that it’s the playoffs that the fans, players, coaches and team ownership remember.
“We always look at it from two different minds, one is the business side, obviously you want to go as far as you can and try and win,” he says. “The other side of it is trying to get kids to the next level.”
Barron had been with the Mariners for most of the team's time in Yarmouth, serving as an assistant coach before taking on the role of head coach. He held the head coach position for the last four years.
He says his best and worst memory can probably be rolled into one – this being the 2012 Kent Cup final series with the Woodstock Slammers. What made it the best was the team twice rebounded in the playoffs from 3-1 series deficits – once to win the division, and then to push the final series to a Game 7 with the Slammers. But that the Mariners came so close to winning the league championship – they lost in triple overtime in Game 7 – was a crushing heartbreak. Barron was named the MHL coach of the year following that season and the playoffs.
Bonnar says the search for a new head coach has begun but they'll only start seriously looking for a new coach once all of the junior A teams have finished playing their games this season. Bonnar says they wish Barron all the best in the future.
The Mariners were not the only MHL team last week to part ways with their head coach. The Amherst Ramblers terminated their contract with Jim Bottomley, saying the team has lost money the past couple of seasons by not making it further in the playoffs and they couldn’t maintain the expense of having Bottomley at the helm since he was living in Halifax and having to commute for practices and games. Bottomley was reportedly quite surprised by the contract termination.
As for Barron, he wants to continue coaching and will always be thankful for his time in Yarmouth.
“The 11 years I’ve been here has been great,” he says. “My family and I, we’ve enjoyed Yarmouth. It’s a great place to bring up kids and even knowing it didn’t end the way I wanted, I wouldn’t change anything.”