A former UNB Varsity Reds men’s hockey defenceman made his junior “A” coaching debut with the Amherst Ramblers this season.
Josh Hepditch played with the Varsity Reds for five seasons spanning from 2006-2011, following an illustrious career with the Moncton Wildcats. Hepditch also played two seasons professionally in the Central Hockey League.
After excelling on the ice for so many years, Hepditch knew that he could offer even more in a coaching role.
“I always felt that I wanted to be a coach, and during my last few years as a player, I viewed the game differently from a coach’s perspective,” said the 30 year old. “I was fortunate enough to play for some championship teams and you take something different out of every year you win.”
Hepditch was first introduced to the realm of coaching by his former Wildcats coach, Danny Flynn.
“I ran into him while coaching a UNB prospects team in Montreal, and mentioned that I wanted to get into coaching. It wasn’t two weeks later that he phoned me and said there was an opportunity in the Kootenay International Junior Hockey League in Creston, B.C.”
Hepditch was soon offered the position of head coach and general manager, and after a big discussion with his wife, the couple headed west.
“My first year was a big transition going from player to coach and I learned a huge amount in a short time,” he said. “My time in Creston was great. In my two years there, we won the franchise’s first ever division title and graduated five of the six 20-year-olds into the NCAA.”
Hepditch credited many of his elite coaches such as Flynn, Ted Nolan, Dan Lacroix and Gardiner MacDougall for furthering his interest in the position.
The Ramblers, who compete in the Maritime Hockey League, completed the 2014-15 season with a 12-32-2-2 record overall, placing them sixth in the Eastlink Division and missing the playoffs.
“Our season can be looked at in two different ways,” explained Hepditch. “Most from the outside looking in would view it as an unsuccessful season, as we missed the playoffs and finished last in our division.”
From his close perspective, however, Hepditch views it as a learning experience.
“I took a lot out of this season. We were an extremely young team and will only lose three 20 year olds. We will have 18 returning players next year that all have a year’s experience in the league, and who played in key situations that they may not have with an older team.”
Looking back on his own time at UNB, Hepditch firmly believes that he chose the perfect school to complete his university career.
“Not only was I returning to my hometown, but I was able to be a part of an amazing school and hockey program. Going to four national championships, and winning three of them, is something I will remember forever. My time at UNB made me a champion both on and off the ice.”
In addition to the team’s stellar record throughout his stint as a V-Red, Hepditch also cited the amazing character demonstrated by his teammates.
“It really was a lifestyle at UNB, where we didn’t just have to be great players at the rink. I was surrounded by amazing people and you had to be a great person yourself or you just wouldn’t fit in. I took so much out of my time at UNB that I try to pass onto my players and the kids I am coaching now.”
Despite now living away from Fredericton, Hepditch still follows the Varsity Reds very closely, and keeps in touch with many former teammates.
“I speak to Coach Mac a few times a year both about the team and looking for answers on my own team. Now that Rob Hennigar is with the team, we speak almost weekly about different things.”