The Vermilion County Bobcats of the Southern Professional Hockey League (SPHL) have officially hired Brent Hughes as the first head coach in franchise history.
“Brent has incredible coaching experience at higher levels,” praised Bobcats owner Ellen Tully. “He knows what it means to be part of a family, taking care of one another, having each other’s back. He embodies development, loyalty and commitment to the community, the youth and our Bobcats, all those things we look for (in a coach).”
“Fans are going to go home and say, ‘that Vermilion team works hard,’” Hughes said of the team identity he wishes to form in Vermilion County. “We’re going to play fast. I like the players that showcase their talents. We’re going to be structured defensively, but we’ll give some room for creativity as well.”
Hughes, a Toronto native, spent 10 seasons as a professional hockey player, skating on the right wing in the Central Hockey League, International Hockey League and British Elite Ice Hockey League. He amassed 339 points over 442 professional games in his career.
Serving as a player-head coach in his final pro season with the EIHL’s Dundee Stars, Hughes transitioned to a full-time coaching career beginning as an assistant with the North York Rangers in the Ontario Junior Hockey League. He later served as head coach and Vice President of Hockey Operations for the Brampton Beast in their first season in the ECHL in 2014-15. “I’ve been a part of a new franchise [before] with Brampton,” Hughes explained. “Getting a second crack at building a franchise was very intriguing.”
Following his stint with the Beast, Hughes served as an assistant for the Cape Breton Screaming Eagles in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League, and most recently as head coach for the Espanola Express in the Northern Ontario Junior Hockey League.
“Brent brings a wealth of knowledge and experience to our organization,” Tully noted. “While we want to see our Bobcats win, Brent also emphasizes the importance of their development on and off the ice and their advacement on [to higher levels]. There will be no complacency in this organization.”
Hughes expressed excitement at setting down roots in Danville with the Bobcats and integrating himself into Vermilion County’s rich hockey landscape.
“Coming in and getting out into the community, feeling that buzz…it’s so important,” he emphasized. “Any player that comes to play for us, they’re not just here to play hockey. They’re a part of this community. They’re going to be in the community doing work every single day.”
“We’re here to build something and make it last,” he added.