Ex-Rocket rejoins club as assistant coach
Fifteen years after playing his last game with the Kelowna Rockets, Kris Mallette is back with the WHL club, this time as a member of the coaching staff.
Mallette, 35, will serve as an assistant to new Rockets' head man, Dan Lambert.
Mallette, who has coached for five seasons, was most recently an associate head coach with the BCHL's Vernon Vipers.
For Mallette, landing a job with his former WHL team is the realization of a longtime goal.
"This is full circle for me," said Mallette. "I got my start back in the old Memorial Arena. Once I got into coaching my ultimate goal was always to coach with the Rockets. I'm fortunate with the success Ryan (Huska) had, he was able to move on. It's fantastic getting back to a team that has done so much for me."
A resident of Kelowna, Mallette played 152 games for the Rockets over two-plus seasons as a stay-at-home defenceman, beginning in 1996-97 and ending in 1998-99. He then went on to a nine-year professional career before retiring due to injury following the 2008-09 season.
During his professional career, Mallette played for eight different teams, racking up over 300 penalty minutes in three different seasons, while playing over 500 games.
"I wasn't the most skilled player so I had to rely on something else," he said. "I became a student of the game. I really paid attention to a lot of details and as my career progressed I spent more and more time picking the brains of the coaches I had."
Back in Kelowna after his playing career, Mallette joined former NHLer Brent Gilchrist with the Kelowna Minor Hockey midget tier 1 team where the pair won a provincial title. He then moved on to North Okanagan (KIJHL) first as an assistant and then as a head coach where he was named division coach of the year and then KIJHL Coach of the Year in consecutive years. Vernon was up next where the former Rocket was an associate head coach with the Vipers last season.
Rockets President/GM Bruce Hamilton said Mallette is ready for the challenge after paying his dues, first as a player and then as a coach.
"Kris has worked at every level to get himself to where he is," said Hamilton. "He came to us years ago and asked about coaching and I said he had to go and learn. He's done that. He's worked at every level. He's from a bit of a different era in our organization. It's a lot different than when he played but he understands exactly what we are all about and he understands what the expectations are to play here."
Rockets' head coach said he's Dan Lambert is looking forward to getting down to work with Mallette.
"Kris is a very passionate guy, not just about hockey but specifically his connections and history with the Kelowna Rockets," said Lambert. "Kris was a defenceman, so that's the part of our hockey club he'll be working with. Regardless of what level he's coached at he's always been willing to learn and improve, and I expect him also push me and help me become a better coach as well."
A married father of two, Mallette met his wife Susie in Kelowna when he was a player. He's maintained a home in Kelowna since his playing days, and the couple are raising two daughters in the city.
"I was able to start my career in Kelowna and I've lived here ever since," he said. "It might sound corny but it's a dream come true, for me and my family too."