‘I just feel like I fit here’: Winnipeg Jets coach talks tradition, hockey and home
He’s a husband, a father and a total homebody… and he loves Winnipeg.
“I just feel like I fit here,” Maurice said during a one-on-one sit down with Global News.
The 51-year-old from Sault Ste. Marie, Ont., joined the Jets in January 2014 and said it was an easy decision.
Not only did he feel supported by his family, GM Kevin Cheveldayoff and owner Mark Chipman, Winnipeg just felt right.
“We fit here. This whole thing at the end of the day is about your family, whether your family fits in Winnipeg,” Maurice said.
“I had that sense, and I can remember it clearly walking into the morning skate before the Phoenix game, my first game.”
“You walk into the room, you talk to the players, I told my wife in the afternoon, ‘I feel like I fit here, I feel like it’s right.'”
Even if making the move to Winnipeg wasn’t a difficult one, Maurice said it was a family decision, and it’s his family that keeps him on his toes — his wife in particular. As he put it… “she runs everything and I coach.”
While the players are his family on the ice, the wife and kids are what matters most come Christmas, and Coach Maurice said his holiday activities are rooted in tradition.
From tourtiere on Christmas Eve — a French-Canadian staple, to the ornaments placed on the Christmas tree — ones his wife keeps for each of the kids each year, Maurice said he looks forward to good food and family over the holidays.
WATCH: Christmas Traditions — Winnipeg Jets Coach Paul Maurice home for the holidays
There are a few things about Paul Maurice that many fans notice… and one of the first questions he always gets asked, he said, is what type of gum he chews.
“I think it’s Extra. Spearmint,” he said. “There are five pieces available a night. Three periods, shootout and overtime.
“If I’ve blown through my number we’re not playing well. If I’m on piece three halfway through the second period, things are not going well for the Jets.”
The second thing he hears, he said, when he meets people in person, is that he is taller than they thought he would be.
Of course the way everyone knows Coach best is from his performance behind the bench and his post-game interviews. From the relatively early days of Jets 2.0, his journey with the team has been an exciting ride.
Fast forward to the 2017/18 NHL season and the team’s best playoff run ever.
Tens of thousands of fans, decked out in white, took to the streets of Winnipeg to cheer on the Jets. The Winnipeg Whiteout didn’t go unnoticed by Maurice and his coaching staff.
WATCH: Jets fans get Whiteout fever
“There’s some great outfits, we got a good chuckle about that,” he said. “What you’re left with, and it’s kind of the Winnipeg experience, is pure joy outside. Everybody is so happy. It’s beyond the normal fan experience with their team, it’s a different connection here.”
“It’s like they own the team. It’s theirs. It left, it came back, it’s theirs.
“There’s always going to be coaches come through, players come through, but it’s always going to be the fans’ team. They were enjoying the heck out of it and it’s nice to feel a part of that.”
While the Jets weren’t able to clinch the Western Conference Final, for Coach Maurice, it was still a remarkable year.
“My best memory, hockey memory of the year, is game 7 in Nashville. It’s not the win, it’s the fact we lost in Game 6. When you’re under a great amount of pressure, how do you perform? I felt, at that time, that we played as well as we could. That was the part of the whole year that I enjoyed the most.”
WATCH: A Global News sit-down with Winnipeg Jets Coach Paul Maurice (the full 20-minute interview)
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