By Garrett Fabris
Good coaching can be hard to come by regardless of the sport, team or level of competition.
The Eugene Generals seem to have the golden ticket on how to acquire good coaching, so how does the franchise go about finding great coaches?
It’s relatively simple; the Generals recruit coaches who have been in the team’s system as players. This ensures the coaches know the expectations of the organization and that the coaches embody the values of the franchise.
This trend for the Generals started in 2013 when the organization chose to hire Justin Kern, who began his career with the Generals as an assistant coach. But, Kern was soon promoted to head coach in his second season with the team. This trend then continued in 2015 when the Generals brought on Daniel Gomez as an assistant coach. Gomez just finished his final season as a player for the Eugene Generals in the Northern Pacific Hockey League this past season.
Coach Gomez's path to the NPHL, and then the Generals, isn't as typical compared to most junior hockey players. During the age of 18, Gomez was a practice player for the Southern Oregon Spartans, a team within the NPHL, but that didn't last long. About three-quarters through the season he left the Spartans for a spot as a roster player for the West Sound Warriors. Gomez would stay with the Warriors until the conclusion of the 2011-2012 season.
Once the season concluded, and the summer rolled around, Gomez found himself enlisting in the Marine Corps reserves. He was then, "shipped out to boot camp in October of 2012 and graduated from boot camp in January 2013. [He] then went on to combat training for [his] Military Occupation Specialty School, where [he] became a heavy equipment operator."
After taking a year off for military training, Gomez went back to the Spartans (during his time away from the team, the Spartans had joined the Western States Hockey League) for the 2013 -2014 season. After a short four games with the team, he wanted to pursue opportunities elsewhere. Gomez called the General Manager for the Generals, Flint Doungchak, about trying out for the team. The next day Gomez had a tryout for the Generals and was then offered a spot on the second line for the team. "
During his first season with the Generals, Gomez was able to net nine goals while assisting on five others in a total of 23 games. Towards the end of the season, Gomez got tied up with Ivan Bondarenko during a game, which led to Gomez separating his shoulder. When he separated his shoulder, he also tore his labrum. That injury didn’t keep him off the ice, being a hockey player, Gomez was back in the game after the doctor put his shoulder back into place. He finished the season wearing a brace, thus allowing Gomez to play with a torn labrum the rest of the season.
Due to his shoulder injury, he required surgery during the offseason and had to miss the first six games of his final season with the Generals because of that surgery. At the start of the season Gomez was awarded the assistant captain letter because of his ability to be a leader on and off the ice. By the end of the season he was able to play in 26 games and finished with 16 points, nine of which were goals along with seven assists.
At the end of the season, coach Kern of the Generals approached Gomez about his interest in being an assistant coach for the team. Confident in his leadership abilities on and off the ice, Kern felt that he would make a great fit for the team and help the organization get back to the playoffs. Gomez accepted the Generals’ offer and began his coaching career shortly after the conclusion of the 2014 – 2015 season.
Heading into his first season as the Generals’ assistant coach, Gomez says, “it’s a difficult transition from player to coach, but regardless of the obstacles that come with the job it has been a lot of fun.”
With the start of the 2015 – 2016 season rapidly approaching, Gomez’s main focus is on developing players on and off the ice. He also wants to develop a culture of family amongst the team. Gomez notes that he believes, “the most important parts of junior hockey are the friends you make and the relationships you form.”
Be sure to follow how assistant coach Daniel Gomez and the Eugene Generals preform this season. The Generals open the season on the road against the Bellingham Blazers on September 25th, 2015 at 7:35 pm.