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Be like Jordie, new Victoria Royals coach tells his players

Jordie Benn, the unheralded blue-liner who came out of the Victoria Grizzlies and Victoria Salmon Kings to play in the NHL, could be the best example for players to follow, says coach James Patrick.
Head coach James Patrick and the Royals host the Lethbridge Hurricanes on Friday night. DARREN STONE, TIMES COLONIST

Although he is no relation to the iconic Patrick hockey family of Victoria, which gave the capital its Stanley Cup championship in 1925, James Patrick’s extensive career has seen him cross paths with many Island hockey legends.

Friday night’s official face-off for the WHL game at Save-on Foods Memorial Centre, between head coach Patrick’s Victoria Royals and the Lethbridge Hurricanes, will commemorate the almost two-month-out anniversary of the nationally broadcast Hockey Day in Canada to take place Jan. 20 in the capital.

The Hockey Day promos on the Memorial Centre big screen the past few games have highlighted Island NHL brothers Russ and Geoff Courtnall and Jamie and Jordie Benn. Patrick played with Russ Courtnall in the 1984 Sarajevo Winter Olympics and helped mentor the Benns as assistant coach of the Dallas Stars. Patrick also won gold and bronze medals at the 1982 and 1983 world junior hockey championships with former Victoria Cougars WHL star Mark Morrison, played in the pros with the late former Victoria Cougars star Paul Cyr and played pro in Frankfurt, Germany, under Lions head coach Rich ­Chernomaz, a former Cougars star from Port Alberni.

Patrick, a defenceman who played more than 1,200 games in the NHL, said he has fond bonds with all those connections. Yet Jordie Benn, the unheralded blue-liner who came out of the shadow of his more famous Olympic gold-medallist and NHL Stars captain younger-brother Jamie, to play in the NHL out of the Victoria Grizzlies of the ­Junior A BCHL and Victoria Salmon Kings of the minor-pro ECHL, could be the best example to follow.

“Maybe I look at Jamie Benn as the greatest player ever from the Island,” said Patrick.

“He’s right up there. I had as much joy coaching those two players [Jamie and Jordie] as I had coaching any players in the NHL. Jamie was a superstar but you would never know it from his behaviour. I think he is the best captain in the NHL. He’s the most old-school player in the NHL. He’s as tough a top-end player in the NHL as they come and will do anything for his teammates. I cannot say enough about Jamie Benn.”

But the unsung older brother’s tenacity is the example Patrick might want his young Royals charges to learn from more.

“When I took the assistant coaching job in Dallas, [then Stars head coach] Jim Nill gave me the names of the 10 defencemen on the team the year before including on the farm team,” recalled Patrick.

“I called them all. Jordie Benn’s name wasn’t on the list. Jordie came to camp. He makes our team and by the end of the season he’s in our top four. This is a guy who started in the ECHL and who worked his way up to have a 10-year NHL career. A guy who never should have made it and rose above expectations. And it wasn’t by riding on his brother’s coattails. I’ll tell you that right now. Jordie earned every bit himself. The four years I had Jordie in Dallas, he played top four or the fifth guy and would kill penalties and block shots and do all the little things. I am so proud of what he earned on his own. That’s an awesome Island connection.”

And an instructive one for Patrick’s young Royals players looking to make their way in the sport.

Patrick led the Winnipeg Ice to the WHL regular-season championship in 2022-23 and the league final. Victoria (12-8-1) is 3-1 since Patrick took over from fired head coach Dan Price last week. Bill Peters’ Lethbridge squad is 10-8-2.

Friday night will be a homecoming for Carter Dereniwsky, a second round pick by the Royals in the 2019 WHL prospects draft, who was traded this preseason to the Hurricanes in exchange for an eighth-round selection in the 2025 WHL prospects draft to give him a new beginning in a new setting to find that promise from U-15 hockey. The 19-year-old, five-foot-10, 168-pound native of Canora, Sask., recorded 10 goals and 13 assists for 23 points in 76 games for Victoria between 2020 and 2023 and has three goals and four points this season for Lethbridge.

ICE CHIPS: Friday night’s game will include messages on the big screen from Ron MacLean and former Vancouver Canucks defenceman Kevin Bieksa in regards to the upcoming Hockey Day in Canada in Victoria.

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