Raider coach Jeff Truitt has a history of success when it comes to first year head coaching jobs, and the Prince Albert Raiders hope that history repeats itself this upcoming season.
There was no place like Kelowna in 2003 and 2004. The Rockets were coming off back-to-back appearances in the Memorial Cup after winning the President’s Cup (now known as the Ed Chynoweth Cup) in 2003, the Rockets won the 2004 Memorial Cup on home ice serving as the host team for the event.
Following the Memorial Cup win in 2004, Rockets head coach Marc Habscheid stepped down from his role in order take on a role with Canada national team. Habscheid was replaced as head coach by his assistant coach of four years, Jeff Truitt.
In his first season as Kelowna’s head coach, Truitt led the Rockets to a 45-13-12-2 record, good enough for 104 points and the top spot in the B.C division. In the playoffs, Kelowna defeated Vancouver in six games in the first round, Seattle fell in seven hard fought games in round two, the Rockets overpowered the Kootenay ICE in six games in the Western Conference final and defeated the Brandon Wheat Kings in five games to secure the third straight trip to the Memorial Cup.
Although Kelowna did not win a game in the 2005 Memorial Cup, it was still a great success for Truitt to win the WHL championship in his first season behind the Rockets’ bench.
Bruce Hamilton is the current president and general manager of the Kelowna Rockets and served in that role during the years Habscheid and Truitt coached for the Rockets. He says the duo helped shape the Rockets success.
“We were in desperate need of a total makeover and a culture change. (Habscheid) came in and it took two or three years to get it changed over and Jeff was brought in as an assistant. I’ve known them well, stayed in touch with them. They both were instrumental in the success of our team.”
Hamilton says Truitt replacing Habscheid was exactly what the Rockets’ needed at that time.
“It was exactly what we wanted. We wanted some consistency. At the time we hired Jeff, we wanted to bring in an assistant coach that was fully capable of taking over when the head coach was ready to move on. No different then our coach here today, Kris Mallette.”
Turn the clock ahead to 2022. After Habscheid resigned to coach professionally in Europe, the Prince Albert Raiders needed a new head coach to take over. It was an easy decision for the new bench boss in Hockeytown North, none other than Habscheid’s former assistant coach with the Raiders, Jeff Truitt.
Truitt says he is looking forward to keeping the winning ways in Prince Albert, exactly like what he did in Kelowna.
“We want to continue our championship mentality. We want to win no matter what the roster looks like. We expect to win here. We want our team to compete hard and the building blocks here are going to stay the same. My expectations for this team is we are going to work hard, we’re going to work through the highs and lows. (We’re) going to represent the logo and our city the right way.”
After his time with the Rockets, Truitt moved onto to coach in the American Hockey League with the Springfield Falcons, San Antonio Rampage and Texas Stars. Truitt has also served as an assistant coach with the Red Deer Rebels from 2013-2014 through 2017-2018, the Lethbridge Hurricanes from 1993-1994 through 1996-1996 and served as the director of hockey operations for the Moose Jaw Warriors in the 2009-2010 season.
The Raiders open the season with Truitt behind the bench on Sept. 23 when the Saskatoon Blades will visit the Art Hauser Centre.