The Kelowna Rockets have found its new head coach.
The Rockets announced on Tuesday that the Western Hockey League team had hired Brad Ralph from the ECHL’s Idaho Steelheads to replace the departed Dan Lambert, who was hired as an assistant coach by the Buffalo Sabres this off-season.
Ralph, 34, was the head coach of the Steelheads for the past three seasons and will be the ninth head coach in Kelowna Rockets history.
Rockets General Manager Bruce Hamilton made the announcement at a press conference on Tuesday at Manhattan Point.
“We’re really excited,” said Hamilton. “Brad has a tremendous coaching record. I believe we found someone who fits in with the culture we have here. He fully understands what we expect as an organization. This has been a process that we would have liked to have move quicker but we feel Brad is an excellent fit for the organization.”
Last season Ralph was a finalist for ECHL Coach of the Year after compiling a 48-18-6 record and winning the ECHL Pacific Division with the Steelheads. Over a five year coaching career, Ralph has posted a 203-98-27 record, spending three years in Idaho and two more in Augusta (SPHL) where he was 2011 SPHL Coach of the Year.
“It’s an honour to coach the Kelowna Rockets and I’m excited to get to know the players and the organization,” said Ralph. “The Rockets have a great tradition of winning and I’m looking forward to learning why this team has been so successful over the years. I think there is a great group of players coming back here and I’m excited to guide them back to where they were last year.”
A native of Richmond, ON, Ralph played junior hockey for the OHL’s Oshawa Generals before being drafted in the 2nd round of the 1999 NHL Entry Draft by the Phoenix Coyotes. Over an eight year professional career, Ralph played over 450 professional games (North America and Europe) and was team captain on four of the nine teams he played on.
A centre during his playing days, Ralph says his teams play solid defensive hockey that leads into an offensive system.
“We’ll play fast and we will play an up tempo game,” he said. “We’ll be offensive without giving up anything in our own end. Above all it will be based on hard work. I’m excited to coach the players at this level. There are a lot of elite players in the league. The WHL is one of the best leagues in the world. I’m excited to be back in Canada and back in hockey country.”
Ralph joins current Rockets assistant coaches Kris Mallette and Travis Crickard on the Rockets bench for the coming season.
This coming season will be the Rockets 25th anniversary season. The team’s training camp begins Aug. 24.