Barrie native Darren Rumble has been named the interim head coach of the Owen Sound Attack, where Orillia's Colby Barlow is the team captain.
The 54-year-old former NHLer is in his first season in Owen Sound, serving as an assistant after three seasons in a similar role with the Gatineau Olympiques of the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League (QMJHL).
Rumble grew up in Barrie and is a graduate of both the local minor hockey association and the Junior B Colts, the forerunner to the major junior version, before leaving town to play for the Kitchener Rangers.
Rumble played three years for the Rangers and will travel to Kitchener for his first game in charge of the Attack on Friday night. The club follows with two home games against the Brantford Bulldogs and Kingston Frontenacs.
“My approach is that coaching is a partnership,” explained Rumble, when asked to detail how he was going to handle his new position. "I’m looking to build a mutual respect between (me) and the players. I’m a players' coach at heart.”
Rumble’s most notable coaching job has been a six-year run as the head coach of the QMJHL's Moncton Wildcats, which followed a two-season stint as the bench boss of the Tampa Bay Lightning’s American Hockey League affiliate. Rumble also served as an assistant at the major junior level in Seattle, Shawinigan, Que., and Saginaw, Mich., at various times over the past decade.
Rumble was a 16-year pro as a player, including stints in the NHL with Philadelphia (twice), Ottawa, St. Louis and Tampa Bay, with whom he won the Stanley Cup in 2004. He was also named the AHL’s top defenceman while playing for the Flyers' affiliate.
The coaching announcement came Wednesday, two days after the Ontario Hockey League club fired head coach Greg Walters in a surprising move for a team that had started 4-2-1 and was coming off its best showing of the young season, a 4-0 win on the road against the Soo Greyhounds.
“I just felt it was the right (time) to move on,” said Attack GM Dale DeGray, who, like Rumble, is a former NHL defenceman. "We wanted to go in a different direction coaching-wise.”
DeGray and Rumble have worked together in the past with Team Canada’s U18 program.
Walters, a former minor leaguer who was a Leafs draft pick, was in his third season behind the Attack bench, a span that included two first-round playoff exits. A tough guy as a player, Walters had also had a two-year run in Oshawa as head coach of the Generals, including an appearance in the Eastern Conference final in 2019.
Walters is known as an old-school coach. Asked if the move could be interpreted as a move away from traditional ways to more progressive methods represented by Rumble, DeGray declined to go into specifics.
“I’m not going to go down that road,” said DeGray, who later added that he still thought highly of Walters but that the fit was no longer right in Owen Sound.
“He’s got a very good coaching record … I think he can continue coaching in the American League.”
Before being named head coach in Moncton, Rumble was a finalist for the Halifax Mooseheads head coaching job that eventually went to Dom Ducharme.
Rumble has been behind the bench for long playoff runs as both a head coach and assistant, but has had perhaps his most notable success in helping develop young defencemen.
His former pupils include Jordan Spence (Los Angeles Kings) in Moncton, Tristan Luneau (Anaheim Ducks) in Gatineau, and Shea Theodore (Vegas Golden Knights) in Seattle. All three players are currently on NHL rosters after winning their respective league defenceman of the year awards while playing for Rumble in junior.
“I’ve had great luck with players,” said Rumble, who also helped develop Conor Garland from an under-sized, late draft pick of the Wildcats into the QMJHL’s MVP in his last year of junior hockey.
“The team’s compete level is what I covet the most as a coach, along with the respect factor that I think has to be there as well, always," he added.
The Owen Sound Attack roster Rumble takes over includes a pair of Simcoe County products in Barrie native Jake Crawford and Orillia's Colby Barlow, who was a first-round pick of the Winnipeg Jets this past summer.
Four years ago, Rumble was briefly considered for the Colts head coach job when the late Dale Hawerchuk had to step down to be treated for cancer. That job eventually went to Warren Rychel, Rumble’s former Kitchener Rangers teammate, who lasted just a few months.
Marty Williamson eventually returned to assume his former role, after longtime Hawerchuk assistant Todd Miller served in an interim capacity before the pandemic shut down the OHL for more than a season.
Miller took over for Walters in Oshawa, but was fired after a few months in the job.