Jim Montgomery, new Dallas Stars coach, made an impression in his short time with the Pembroke Lumber Kings
Jae S. Lee/The Dallas Morning News via AP: Dallas Stars new head coach Jim Montgomery (centre), CEO Jim Lites and general manager Jim Nill (right) pose for a photograph during an NHL hockey press conference at American Airlines Center in Dallas, Friday, May 4, 2018. Montgomery, the second head coach in three years to go from the college ranks to the NHL, was 125-57-26 the past five seasons at the University of Denver, including a national title in 2016-17.
Although Jim Montgomery played only one season for the Pembroke Lumber Kings in the late 1980s, when his name started popping up for possible NHL coaching jobs local residents took notice.
Montgomery, a centre from Montreal, arrived in Pembroke at the end of the Jim Farelli era. In the 1988-89 season, he scored 53 goals, added 104 assists and accumulated 112 penalty minutes. His 154 points were second to only Brian Downey, who led the Kings with 172 points (76G and 96A) that season.
After making his mark coaching at the University of Denver in the NCAA, last week Montgomery landed his first NHL coaching job with the Dallas Stars.
Retired teacher Romeo Levasseur was the education liaison with the Lumber Kings when he remembers Farelli mentioning he had a new kid coming from Montreal to play for the team. That kid turned out to be Montgomery who Levasseur got to know through his role and also the fact that his son J.P Levasseur was in his fourth season with the Lumber Kings at the time.
“He was pretty smart in school and he was a real gentleman,” Levasseur said last week. “On the ice he was a real dynamo.”
He added Montgomery demonstrated his smarts by scoring well on his SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test), which Levasseur helped to administer at the time. When he left Pembroke, Montgomery went onto a successful NCAA playing career at the University of Maine, for which he secured a scholarship.
Over the years Levasseur kept track of the players once they left Pembroke, following their playing and in Montgomery's case, coaching career. He was pleased to see him finally rewarded with a spot behind an NHL bench.
Among Montgomery's teammates during that season was current Lumber Kings's owner and head coach Dale McTavish. While they lost touch over the years other than a few messages here and there, McTavish does remember Montgomery as a great teammate.
“I'm very happy for Jim,” he said. “He was very good with me, as I was 16 at the time. I'm not surprised he is doing so well coaching and I know players will want to play for him. It is awesome to see PLK alumni doing so well.”
While Montgomery was in Pembroke he was many players who billeted at Thibeau's boarding house, which was run by Jackie Clinton. He was there between September 1988 and June 1989, said Clinton's daughter Kelly Coulas, who recalled he was well behaved and that he did well in school.
“He had a good hockey sense and he knew the game well,” she said.
When she heard about his new coaching job, she felt a sense of pride, similar to that of a younger brother.
Through the years, her brother Shayne Clinton did keep in touch with Montgomery and that's how she learned of his new coaching job.
Clinton wasn't surprised about Montgomery's rise to the NHL as Montgomery had indicated teams had started showing interest four or five years ago. He remembers his former billet brother being comical and an all-around great guy. Since news of Montgomery joining the Stars broke, Clinton has been surprised by the number of people reaching out to him as they were aware of the connection.
“It's amazing how many people remember him so I've been getting a lot of calls and messages,” he said. “It's pretty cool when someone you know makes it big.”
He did admit that his mom Jackie is the happiest of all, making it clear to her children that she wants tickets to watch Dallas when the team plays in Ottawa.