Victoria's Carbery continues rise up to NHL as Maple Leafs assistant coach

Spencer Carbery of Victoria has bench hopped from the ECHL to the AHL now to the NHL as the newly hired assistant coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs.

“It’s been a crazy few months,” said Carbery, who was named AHL head coach of the year with the Hershey Bears.

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“It’s a really exciting opportunity to coach in the NHL with such an historic franchise that has so much of a following.”

The Islander labelled his rise in the coaching ranks as “pretty surreal from where I started out 11 years ago because 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 the coaching offer from South Carolina and the climb began on the bench.

“You learn to grind it out [coaching in the minor pros] and if you treat people the right way, you can succeed in this business,” said Carbery.

Which is exactly what he has done at 39. Carbery worked his way up the minor-pro head coaching chain, successfully guiding the South Carolina Stingrays in the ECHL from 2011 to 2016 with a 207-115-39 record and a trip to Game 7 of the 2015 Kelly Cup final.

Carbery became head coach of the Saginaw Spirit of the major-junior OHL in 2016-17. That led to his first Hockey Canada national team assignment as assistant coach with Team Canada Black for the 2017 World U-17 Hockey Challenge in Dawson Creek and Fort St. John.

After a season as assistant coach in the AHL with the Providence Bruins, Carbery was named head coach of Hershey on June 26, 2018, and led the historic club to a three-season record of 104-50-17, culminating with a 24-7-2 mark for a .758 winning percentage this season, and the nod as AHL coach of the year. That caught the eye of the Maple Leafs, where he will work with the club’s potent corps of forwards. “I will look at the match-ups and react on the bench to the game dynamics to support [head coach] Sheldon Keefe,” said Carbery.

Assistant coach Dean Chynoweth handles the defensive assignments for the Leafs. Former Canucks player Manny Malhotra is also a Maple Leafs assistant coach.

Carbery said he still leans on the lessons he learned from his Island hockey coaches — Jack Hagen and Craig Didmon at Racquet Club, Pete Zubersky with the Peninsula Panthers of the VIJHL and Greg Adams at Cowichan Valley in the BCHL.

“They all helped mould my hockey mind,” said Carbery.

So did his dad on the home front. Bryan Carbery is the retired head coach of the University of Victoria golf team and guided the squad to four RCGA Canadian university titles in his 13 years in charge of the Vikes. Hardly surprisingly, Spencer Carbery is as adept on a golf course as a hockey rink and was Lower Island age-group champion at 14 as a member of Uplands.

Now he looks to tee-off in the NHL portion of a promising coaching career that is still emerging.

COACHING NOTES: Mark Morrison of Sidney, five-season ECHL head coach of the Victoria Salmon Kings and former WHL junior playing star with the Victoria Cougars, has been named head coach of the Manitoba Moose of the AHL.

cdheensaw@timescolonist.com

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