By Chris Jones/The Oshawa Express
After spending years coaching and playing hockey around Ontario, Curtis Hodgins has found a home with the Ontario Tech University Ridgebacks’ men’s team.
Hodgins’ love for hockey began at a very young age.
“I started playing hockey when I was seven-years-old in Oshawa,” he explains.
He was born and raised in the city, and has spent the last 15 years living in Courtice with his wife, Rhonda, and their kids Cooper and Hayden.
Before he took on the role of coach, Hodgins made the rounds in junior hockey.
“I played kind of everywhere,” he explains. “I had a cup of coffee in the OHL with the Ottawa 67’s, played some time with the Pembroke Lumber Kings, the Oshawa Legionaires, and I finished with the Bowmanville Eagles.”
The stop in Ottawa was Hodgins’ only year in the OHL.
“Now when I think back to some of the things I might have done back then, and maybe not put the time in, I realize why I only lasted a year, and I kind of shudder as a coach now thinking about that,” he recalls.
In all, Hodgins played 16 games for the 67’s, earning one point from an assist.
Yet, he’d always had a feeling his future in the game wouldn’t be on the ice.
“I always kind of thought coaching might be something I’d do in the future [when I was playing],” says Hodgins. “I was kind of that player that was very intelligent on the ice, I just didn’t have the physical skills to go with it.”
He adds he lucked out in his last year with the Bowmanville Eagles, as the team merged with the Barrie Colts junior A team, and became a provincial junior A club out of Clarington.
“The owner at the time, Mike Lang, thought I’d fit in on the coaching staff,” explains Hodgins. “I came in and was an assistant coach there for two years, and then head coach at age 24.”
Despite being proud of becoming at coach at such a young age, Hodgins admits he lacked experience.
“I thought I knew everything, but I really knew nothing,” he says. “But, I owe a lot to Mike Lang for giving me that chance.”
Eventually he received a call from John Goodwin, then the coach of the Oshawa Generals, offering him a position as an assistant coach.
Hodgins spent two years with the Gens, calling it a “fantastic learning experience.”
“It was awesome… I was a lifelong Generals fan,” he says. “I grew up watching them. Grew up watching the Memorial Cup wins – I was in Hamilton watching them win in 1990.”
After his time with the Gens finished, he moved back to junior A hockey with the Whitby Fury and the Cobourg Cougars.
Hodgins was then offered the position of head coach with the Ridgebacks midway through his final season with the Cougars.
“Unfortunately, Craig Fisher, the coach [of the Ridgebacks], had to retire due to some medical issues,” explains Hodgins. “Craig actually reached out to me and asked if I was interested in this position because he had to step away.”
He says he didn’t know too much about the position, but after doing some research he felt it was an easy decision.
“It really happened fast, and within a couple of weeks I had a couple of interviews with our athletics director Scott Barker and human resources staff,” he says. “I was given an offer on a Monday, and the next day I started here.”
While it was tough for him to tell the team in Cobourg he was leaving only two months into the season, he feels it was a good opportunity for him.
“[My experience] is nothing but positive here,” says Hodgins. “I’m so fortunate I get to work with great people here. The athletic staff are second to none, I get to work with fellow coaches across a broad platform of sports here. I feel like we’re part of a much bigger team here.”
Outside of hockey, Hodgins says he first met his wife Rhonda in high school, and then they reconnected years later.
Eventually they were married, and began a family. They have now been married for 15 years after celebrating their anniversary in May.
Rhonda works a teacher at Trafalgar Castle School in Whitby.
Their son Cooper, 13, plays rep baseball and hockey, and their daughter, Hayden, 11, participates in soccer and swimming. Both of them are good students, according to Hodgins.
In his spare time, Hodgins enjoys golfing and reading.
Hodgins and the Ridgebacks men’s hockey team begin their season on Oct. 4 against the Nipissing Lakers on home ice.