MEDFORD—Hockey returns to the Rogue Valley this weekend, as the Southern Oregon Spartans open their season at home against San Diego.
The Spartans will be doing so with a new head coach—Ken Hoey has replaced Dennis Creighton after one year, hoping to instill a different culture a season removed from a 12-39 showing.
"I think last year there might have been a lack of discipline on the players not just off the ice, but on the ice where they were taking bad penalties,” Hoey said. “That won't happen this year. We've been very tough on the kids, changing the culture off the ice, working hard in the gym, no stupid penalties, just everything focused on hockey."
Hoey’s resume indicates he’s every bit qualified to make those changes.
A former college and professional player, he comes to the valley after a 17-year coaching stint with the Long Island Royals (of the Metropolitan Junior Hockey League) and Stony Brook University. He said he’s eager to bring a New York-style toughness to a team that’s been asking for it.
"You have to stress discipline with the kids and if you do get on a bad run a little bit it's hard to reign them back in if they're not disciplined,” he said. “We've been stressing that, stressing hard work in practice, stressing being on time. They've been really together. They've done really well."
The Spartans drop the puck on their 2018-2019 season with eight straight games at Southern Oregon Ice Arena, starting with a Friday through Sunday series with the San Diego Sabers.