BY MIKE GRIFFITH Californian staff writer firstname.lastname@example.org
He won't roll into Bakersfield until sometime next week, but on Wednesday the Condors announced that Jean-Francois Houle had been named as the new head coach of the team.
The Edmonton Oilers of the National Hockey League purchased the Condors in January from longtime owner Jonathan Fleisig and Condors president Matthew Riley said the Oilers made the decision.
"It was handled up in Edmonton by their player development department," Riley said. "They got it down to four finalists, flew all of them in and interviewed them and decided on JF and offered him the position."
Houle (pronounced OOL ) becomes the sixth coach in team history and the third in the past four seasons. He replaces Troy Mann, who was hired last July and led the team to the Western Conference Finals for the first time in Condors history. Mann resigned as coach to become head coach of the Hershey (Penn.) Bears of the American Hockey League, where he served an assistant for four seasons before coming to Bakersfield.
Houle, 39, has spent the past four-plus years as head coach in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, compiling a 174-101-12-18 record with the Lewiston (Maine) MANIEiacs and the Blainville-Boisbriand (Quebec) Armada,
"We are thrilled to name Jean-FranÃ§ois Houle as the head coach of the Bakersfield Condors," Edmonton Oilers Assistant General Manager Bill Scott said in a release. "After an exhaustive interview process we identified JF as the candidate we felt was best fit to lead the Condors and Oilers prospects into the future. He has an incredible knowledge of the game, strong work ethic and has the discipline to teach and mentor our players. JF has a bright future ahead of him and we are excited to have him join our organization."
Houle is a native of Quebec City, Quebec, and had been recently named head coach of one of three Canadian teams at the 2014 World Under-17 Hockey Challenge. He has resigned that position in order to coach in Bakersfield.
"I have heard nothing but good things about the community of Bakersfield and the Condors organization," Houle said in a release. "My family and I are excited for the opportunity to come to Bakersfield. This is an opportunity for me to learn the ropes as a professional coach, knowing that I have a big recruiting network. I'm personable, really enjoy teaching the game and consider my communication with players as a strength. I expect my teams to work hard and I am very demanding that they have a competitive edge."
Houle started his coaching career as an assistant at his alma mater -- Clarkson University in Postdam, N.Y. -- where he stayed for seven seasons before taking over for Lewiston in December, 2010.
He coached numerous former Condors while at Clarkson, including 2010 captain Sean Weller, Scott Freeman and Nicholas Tremblay.
His past three seasons have been spent in Blainville-Boisbriand, about 20 miles northwest of Montreal, where he led the Armada to back-to-back West Division titles in 2011-12 and 2012-13. The team advanced to the third round of the QMHJL playoffs the last two seasons.
Houle was a fourth-round draft choice of Montreal in 1993. He played four seasons at Clarkson before turning pro and playing five seasons in the American Hockey League and ECHL, the bulk of that at the ECHL level.
"He understands not only the hockey side of it but the community side of it," Riley said. "In our conversations that we had I didn't have to ask him about that stuff. He knew who the Condors were. He said, 'yeah, you guys are pretty famous for your promotions and I realize that being in the community is important to you and I'm about that. That's what I want to do.'
"We expect him to step right in and be excited, not only about coaching the team on the ice but being part of the Condors organization which, of course, is much larger than just what happens on the ice."
Houle is the son of Rejean Houle, who was the No. 1 pick in the 1969 NHL Entry Draft by Montreal and went on to win five Stanley Cups.