Rocket Report: Kelowna leaning on Kris Mallette to help get team going again

Click to play video: 'Rocket Report Kris Mallette' Rocket Report Kris Mallette
Rocket Report Kris Mallette – Feb 21, 2020

“That’s my role, is to be a team leader in that sense of, if the team is down and something needs to be picked up, then I’ll go out and do something.”

That was Kris Mallette from a Global News interview 22 years ago, when he patrolled the blue-line for the Kelowna Rockets in Memorial Arena.

Back then, the barn was a punishing place to play, and Mallette was one tough customer who made the opposition pay the price.

“Bumps and bruises, black eyes, that all heals, so whatever gets the team going pretty much is why I do it,” Mallette said in March of 1998.

Click to play video: 'Kris Mallette Rockets new interim head coach' Kris Mallette Rockets new interim head coach
Kris Mallette Rockets new interim head coach – Feb 19, 2020

Fast forward two decades and the Rockets are down and something needs to be picked up.

Story continues below advertisement

Once again, Mallette is being asked to get the team going — only not as an enforcer but as the head coach.

“I’ve got a lot of confidence in him. I think he’s been a real student of the game and he’s worked hard,” Rockets general manager Bruce Hamilton said of Mallette.

Like almost every other Canadian kid, Mallette started hockey early, lacing them up at the tender age of three.

“Yeah, but I still can’t skate,” Mallette joked after being named the Rockets’ new interim head coach on Wednesday.

Click to play video: 'Rocket Report on Vern Fiddler' Rocket Report on Vern Fiddler
Rocket Report on Vern Fiddler – Oct 4, 2019

Don’t be fooled by Mallette’s modesty, though, as he knows his hockey.

Known as ‘Mallie,’ he spent nine seasons in the minor leagues, and when it came time to leave the game, stepping on to the bench was a natural choice for him.

Story continues below advertisement

“It’s fun,” Mallette said of coaching. “I love being around the locker-room and the arenas. It’s all I know.”

However, when pressed, Mallette admitted that it’s the chance to mentor young players, helping mold them into men, as to why coaching really appeals to him.

“Getting to know them, teach them, watch them flourish, watch them have good and bad days and just try and be there for them,” he said.

Click to play video: 'Rocket Report: Regan Bartel' Rocket Report: Regan Bartel
Rocket Report: Regan Bartel – Jan 17, 2020

Those are some of Mallette’s keys to coaching, as well why he was chosen to take over the Rockets’ reins.

“He knows [the players]; that’s the biggest thing with 14 games to go,” Hamilton said. “To bring somebody in from the outside isn’t the answer.”
Story continues below advertisement

Mallette’s Rockets are on Vancouver Island this weekend, as they play the Victoria Royals twice. From there, the team will trek to Prince George for two mid-week games.

With Kelowna hosting the 2020 Memorial Cup in May, the pressure on the Rockets to turn around their season-long struggle is immense.

But just like back in the day, when he was one of the league’s heavyweights, Mallie has everyone in his corner.

“He understands what my beliefs are, what our tradition and culture is here,” said Hamilton, “and I think that he embodies that.”

Click to play video: 'Rocket Report mid-season check in' Rocket Report mid-season check in
Rocket Report mid-season check in – Dec 17, 2019

Sponsored content