Not even halfway through his 20s, Mack O’Rourke has already been coaching hockey for seven seasons.
The Kelowna product’s latest step up the coaching ladder has landed him a job in the B.C. Major Midget League.
O’Rourke, 24, has been named the new head coach of the Okanagan Rockets, taking over from James Eccles.
O’Rourke, who coached the last two seasons at the Okanagan Hockey Academy in Penticton, is excited about his latest coaching opportunity back in his hometown.
“You get to work with the highest-calibre players in the minor hockey system, and a lot of these guys are high-end WHL draft picks, so the talent level is very high,” said O’Rourke. “I’m excited about the opportunity here, and the goal is to play for a national championship.”
O’Rourke came up as a coach through Kelowna’s minor hockey system and, as an assistant, helped guide the midget AAA Rockets to the B.C. title in 2010.
He spent the last two years in Penticton, where last season he was the head coach of the OHA’s midget AAA varsity team.
O’Rourke has also been involved in B.C. Hockey’s High Performance program for the past four years, including working as a head coach at the 2012 U16 B.C. Cup.
As for being the youngest head coach ever in the BCMML, O’Rourke looks forward to the challenge of proving he is ready and capable of doing the job.
“Every year at every level, I’ve faced that side of it, being younger than most coaches,” O’Rourke, who has worked in the past with coaches like former NHLers Brent Gilchrist, Dixon Ward and Mike Needham. “Some guys might not give me the credibility because of my age, but it doesn’t bother me or worry me too much. I feel like I’m prepared to take this on.”
As for his goals as the head man of the Okanagan Rockets, O’Rourke hopes to help build on the program’s recent success.
“I want to do my part to make sure the program stays strong and to try and win a championship,” he said. “I wasn’t part of those teams the last two years, so it’s possible we’ll have a little bit of a different look. But we want to build on the success the team has had and put together the best team possible going forward.”
Team GM David Michaud believes the time is right for O’Rourke to take the next step in his coaching career.
“The Rockets and BC Hockey are thrilled to provide this opportunity to Mack O’Rourke,” said Michaud. “Mack is a younger coach that has had tremendous mentorship. His passion and energy about the game, and our program is infectious.”
Under James Eccles last season, the Rockets posted a 26-8-6 record, then advanced as far as the league championship where they dropped a thrilling series, two games to one to the Vancouver Northwest Giants.
Eccles is currently in the market for another coaching job.
“This was not an easy decision to move forward with a new coach,” Michaud added. “I would personally like to thank James for his dedication to our program over the past two season. James is a quality coach and we wish him well in his next assignment. “
O’Rourke will conduct his first training camp as head coach of the Okanagan Rockets beginning Aug. 8 at the Capital News Centre.