Rob French owns a home in Corner Brook.
He is in his third stint as technical director for the minor hockey program in Corner Brook.
He was the captain of the 2002 Corner Brook Royals squad that won the West Coast Senior Hockey League before hoisting the Herder Memorial Trophy that same season — it was the last time the Royals have won a provincial senior hockey crown.
Those were good times for French.
French is the head coach for the last place Stephenville Jets of the three-team West Coast Senior Hockey League.
Now, he is behind the bench of a west coast opponent.
The Jets have four losses in as many games in the early going of the 2018-2019 season.
French forged a friendship with Stephenville Jets general manager Art Barry when he was captain of the Royals squad in the early 2000s.
Barry was friends with then-Royals management Dick Cashin and Wally Fitzpatrick at the time and he was connected to the team in an advisory role.
Knowing he needed a coach to guide the Jets this season, Barry made a telephone call to French earlier this year to gauge his interest in taking over the coaching gig with the Jets.
French never gave the idea a thought before the call from Barry. The Royals already had a coaching staff in place and he never entertained the idea of getting back into the senior game in a coaching capacity.
The job wouldn’t interfere with his technical director duties and his commitment to coach the Corner Brook Midget A rep team that his son Mitchell plays for, so French jumped at the chance to join the Jets.
French is having fun trying to make a difference, but he admits it’s somewhat frustrating when the team has had times where they were short on bodies for one reason or another.
He knows the commitment level isn’t as high as it was back in the day when players were compensated for their time so he’s trying his best to get all hands on the same page. He likes how the core group of players have been positive as the team works through a bit of adversity and he thinks things will only get better after management has guaranteed him there would be some additions in the new year that will make them more competitive.
French has quickly become a Jet. While he still has friends playing for the Royals and his 2002 Herder teammate Darren Colbourne is behind the bench for the Royals, his loyalty now lies with the players who wear the logo that French loved to beat when he played.
“You get to the point where the team becomes your baby and you become connected to the players,” he said. “Especially, when they’re struggling right now, you want to do everything to help even to the point where you almost want to jump on the ice.”
Barry made the telephone call to French because he felt that was the best guy for the job and he couldn’t understand why he wasn’t already coaching in the league.
“I can’t say enough about him. Rob is an excellent coach and that’s why I went after him,” Barry said.
He respects the vast knowledge French has for the game and the way he presents everything to the players so he’s happy to have him around.
French knows the fans want a competitive product on the ice just like he does and he hopes they can remain patient and keep supporting the team.
He’s motivated to help the team become a tough team to play against and having a chance at winning a game on any given night.
“I’ve had nothing but positive from the players and fans alike, and I haven’t had any negative comments from Corner Brook fans or former players,” he said.
For those wondering why take the job, there is no money in it for French. It is all about believing in a bunch of guys and showing them how to put themselves in a better spot to compete.
The team has had its share of adversity in a handful of games. But, the good news for French is that he saw enough to know his time would be well spent with this group of guys.
“I know now who wants to play, so we surround that core group of players with players who could fill the other spots. We could be a contender down the road,” he said.