Spencer Carbery of Victoria is the new head coach of the Washington Capitals.
It completes a sharp ascendancy for Carbery, 41, from the benches of the ECHL to the AHL to assistant coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs the last two seasons.
It’s all been “pretty surreal from where I started out  years ago,” says the Islander. “I never thought about coaching — I was going to go into the financial industry.”
But after his NCAA and then ECHL playing career with Fresno, Stockton, Bakersfield and South Carolina came a coaching offer from South Carolina and a new path opened up on the bench.
Coaching in the minor pros, he said, “you learn to grind it out. And if you treat people the right way, you can succeed in this business.”
Carbery steadily worked his way up the minor-pro head-coaching chain, guiding the South Carolina Stingrays in the ECHL to great success from 2011 to 2016 with a 207-115-39 record and a trip to Game 7 of the 2015 Kelly Cup final.
He became head coach of the Saginaw Spirit of the major-junior OHL in 2016-17 and was assistant coach with Team Canada Black for the 2017 World U-17 Hockey Challenge in Dawson Creek and Fort St. John.
Carbery became assistant coach in the AHL with the Providence Bruins and was named head coach of Hershey on June 26, 2018.
He led the team to an impressive three-season record of 104-50-17 and was named AHL coach of the year in 2020-21. That led to the Maple Leafs assistant-coaching gig under head coach Sheldon Keefe.
Carbery says he still leans on the lessons he absorbed from his Island hockey coaches — Jack Hagen and Craig Didmon at the Racquet Club of Victoria, Pete Zubersky with the Peninsula Panthers of the Vancouver Island Junior Hockey League and Greg Adams at Cowichan Valley in the B.C. Hockey League.
“They all helped mould my hockey mind,” said Carbery, who grew up in a sporting family.
Dad Bryan Carbery is the retired head coach of the University of Victoria golf team and guided the Vikes to four Royal Canadian Golf Association university titles in his 13 years.
The younger Carbery came up as comfortable wielding a golf club as a hockey stick and was Lower Island age-group champion at 14 as a member of Uplands. Now he looks to tee off as an NHL head coach.
“Spencer is one of the best young coaches in the game, who’s had success at every level at which he has coached,” said Capitals senior vice-president and GM Brian MacLellan in a statement.
“We feel his leadership, communication skills, ability to develop players and familiarity with our organization will be a tremendous asset as he makes this next step in his coaching career.”
Carbery becomes the 20th head coach in Capitals history. He joins Carolina Hurricanes mentor Rod Brind’Amour of Campbell River as the second current NHL head coach from the Island.
“It’s a tremendous honour and privilege,” Carbery said in a statement.
“I look forward to working with this group of talented players and building upon the winning culture in place. I would also like to thank the Toronto Maple Leafs organization for all their support over the past two years and wish them all the best in the future.”