Jake Grimes has thought about the day he’d have a chance to win his first game as a head coach in the Canadian Hockey League.
The Dartmouth native, who was hired as the Cape Breton Eagles head coach in June, spent the past 15 years as an assistant coach in the Ontario Hockey League.
Despite having had a number of head coaching offers over his career, Grimes elected to remain close to his family, accepting assistant positions in Belleville, Peterborough and Guelph.
Grimes will have his first opportunity to pick up his first career win as a head coach Friday when the Eagles begin their Quebec Major Junior Hockey League regular season against the Acadie-Bathurst Titan at the K.C. Irving Regional Centre in Bathurst, N.B.
“I’ve thought about it probably just as much as any young player coming into the Quebec league has thought about scoring his first goal,” said Grimes. “It’s going to be cool, but I haven’t really had a chance to win my first game or do anything about it until Friday night when we have a chance to beat Bathurst.”
Grimes was behind the bench during Cape Breton’s preseason schedule, which saw the team post a 4-1 record, but those wins don’t count on his career record until the regular season.
“I’m really hungry for this one,” said the 47-year-old Grimes. “Coaches are completely and totally secondary to players, so it will probably be a private thing, but I’ll enjoy it.”
Along with being an assistant coach in the OHL, Grimes has also served as head coach with the Strathroy Rockets, London Nationals and Petrolia Jets, teams that play in junior leagues in Ontario.
Grimes was also the head coach of Team Ontario at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge, winning gold and silver medals in 2009 and 2010, respectively.
With a victory Friday, Grimes would become the fifth head coach in Eagles history to win in his full-time head coaching debut with the organization.
Dany Dubé won his Eagles debut with a 5-4 victory over the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies on Sept. 20, 1997, while Pascal Vincent posted a 4-3 win over the Drummondville Voltigeurs in his head coaching debut on Oct. 14, 1999, in Sydney.
On Sept. 12, 2008, Mario Durocher — now head coach of the Titan — and the Eagles defeated the Halifax Mooseheads 4-3 at Centre 200, marking his first victory as full-time head coach in Cape Breton.
Ron Choules is the last head coach to win in his debut behind the Eagles' bench, picking up a 3-1 victory over the Moncton Wildcats on Sept. 9, 2011, in Moncton.
The only coaches not to win in their Eagles debut were Bruce Campbell (5-4 loss to the Hull Olympiques on Sept. 18, 1998, in Gatineau), and Marc-André Dumont (5-3 loss to the Halifax Mooseheads on Dec. 4, 2012, in Sydney).
Grimes admits he’s excited to get his first win as a head coach, but understands the team comes before personal goals.
“We want the team to win first,” said Grimes. “It’s going to happen at some point, I hope, but the earlier the better for me.”
Following Friday's game, the Eagles will continue their regular season on Saturday when they play the Titan at 4 p.m. in Bathurst.
Grimes will make his home head coaching debut on Sept. 28 when Cape Breton hosts the Saint John Sea Dogs at 7 p.m. at Centre 200 in Sydney.
EAGLES COACHING HISTORY:
Cape Breton full-time head coach regular season debut history:
- Sept. 20, 1997 – Dany Dubé – 5-4 win over the Rouyn-Noranda Huskies in Sydney
- Sept. 18, 1998 – Bruce Campbell – 5-4 loss to the Hull Olympiques in Gatineau
- Oct. 14, 1999 – Pascal Vincent – 4-3 win over the Drummondville Voltigeurs in Sydney
- Sept. 12, 2008 – Mario Durocher – 4-3 win over the Halifax Mooseheads in Sydney
- Sept. 9, 2011 – Ron Choules – 3-1 win over the Moncton Wildcats in Moncton
- Dec. 4, 2012 - Marc-André Dumont – 5-3 loss to the Halifax Mooseheads in Sydney
*Four of the six head coaches picked up wins in their full-time head coaching regular season debut for the Eagles.