Former Corpus Christi IceRays forward Justin Quenneville announced his retirement from pro hockey and his transition into the world of coaching on Tuesday afternoon. He will remain with the IceRays for his first post-playing position and assume the role of Assistant Coach/Director of Hockey Operations for the new NAHL franchise. Quenneville will serve alongside IceRays Head Coach, Brent Hughes and General Manager, Pat Dunn for the upcoming season. The IceRays recently announced their move to the NAHL – a Tier II Junior A league, and will begin the 2010-2011 season of play in September. Quenneville will be in the IceRays office on Tuesday afternoon from 1-3pm for local media members who would like a comment from the new coach.
Quenneville, 28, closes the chapter on one of the most successful playing careers in IceRays history. He spent four of his six professional seasons in Corpus Christi, and leaves the games as the franchise’s all-time leader in points and assists, and second in games played. He totaled 255 points (96g, 159a) in 234 IceRays regular season games. Overall in his career, Quenneville amassed 321 points (125g, 196a) in 337 games. His on-ice career was highlighted by two CHL All-Star selections, and a MVP finalist nomination in 2006-2007 when he led the IceRays in scoring, while posting career highs in goals, assists, and penalty minutes. He also reached new heights off the ice in Corpus Christi, being named the CHL Man of the Year last season.
Quenneville’s move into coaching will be his first full-time position in such a capacity, but it hardly comes without experience as a leader. Quenneville served as both a player/assistant coach and captain of the IceRays in each of the last two seasons. He was able to guide the club to the post-season in both campaigns. Additionally, twice in his career, he’s served as a bench coach for his team during an injury absence, including last season with the Rays when he was sidelined briefly. Quenneville said that while the close of his playing career is somewhat bittersweet, he is excited for the move into coaching.
“My family has a long history of both playing and coaching,” said Quenneville. “Before I even started my pro career, I remember being told that one day – whenever it came – I’d know when I was ready to make the change from a player to coach. I didn’t know at that time when that would be, but it was something I always knew I would look forward to when it came. I knew the time was right for me now, and I am really looking forward to this opportunity.
“I look at my career, and I’m happy with how it played out,” Quenneville continued. “I was fortunate enough to be put into situations where I could be successful. I have a lot of wonderful memories that I’ll never forget, and I can take pride in the fact that I worked hard every night, and always gave my best. I plan on continuing that into the next phase of my career.”
After the IceRays departed the CHL for the NAHL earlier this summer, Quenneville became a highly-touted commodity among various teams and leagues, and received several inquiries from clubs who wanted to sign him. He said that while he still feels like he can play at a high level, the chance to remain in Corpus Christi as part of the IceRays organization was an opportunity that trumped any other.
“When I think about my career, I feel that it was defined by being part of the IceRays, and part of Corpus Christi,” Quenneville said. “When I got to Corpus Christi four years ago, I said that building something in this organization and in this city was my ultimate goal. I have such incredible memories here of the fans, the community, and the team. This isn’t just a place where I stopped to play hockey. It’s become my home. Several years from now, wherever I am in my career, I’ll still consider this my home. I can’t thank the organization, the fans and everybody in Corpus enough for their support over the years. It’s meant everything to me. To have the chance to stay here, and stay involved in hockey, is a dream come true. I feel so fortunate to be able to do what I love to do, in a place I love to be. This feels more like a beginning than an end to me. I can’t ask for anything more.”
The Montreal, Quebec native was a fan favorite over the last four seasons, even winning the Most Popular IceRay award last year. Dunn said that Quenneville remaining with the team is evidence of just how strong the relationship is between the star player and the South Texas community.
“We all know that Justin could’ve gone pretty much anywhere he wanted to this summer,” said Dunn. “The fact that he’s staying in Corpus Christi shows just how much a part of this team his is, and will continue to be. In Justin we have not just a terrific person, but also a terrific hockey mind. Someone who will be a great teacher, a great mentor and a great role model for the players we bring to the IceRays. I can’t think of a better person to help us move into a new league than a guy who has engrained himself in the community the way Justin has. We’re very lucky to have him, and anyone who has met him over the last four years knows just how lucky we are.”
Quenneville’s responsibilities with the IceRays will consist of both on and off the ice work. He’ll be a full-time assistant coach, play a vital role in recruiting, organizing prospect camps, and overseeing many aspects of the team relative to the community.
Quenneville added that style of play and talent in the NAHL also played a factor in his decision. “As much as I knew I wanted to eventually break into coaching, I also knew it had to be the right situation,” said Quenneville. “During the past decade that I’ve been playing hockey in the U.S., I’ve seen the talent level of junior hockey skyrocket. The players that will be coming here will be at the most crucial point of their hockey playing lives. They’ll have a chance to be discovered by people at the pro level and the collegiate level, and it’s a chance for them to build their futures. That’s one of the things I’m most excited about – to be part of that building and teaching process, and helping these kids grow in one of the top developmental leagues in the country. I think the fans are going to love the style and talent of this team, and I can’t wait to get started.”
Corpus Christi IceRays hockey returns for a brand new season in a brand new league in September. Don’t miss the action of IceRays hockey as they enter one of the top developmental leagues in the country. For more information on tickets, sponsorships, and scheduling, please call the IceRays at 361.814.PUCK or visit them online at www.goicerays.com.