Kenai River Brown Bears coach Josh Petrich has resigned for personal reasons, effective immediately, the organization announced in a press release Sunday afternoon.
“We are grateful for what coach Josh Petrich has done for our organization the past two seasons and wish him well in the future,” Chris Hedlund, associate general manager, said in the press release. Hedlund could not be reached for further comment Sunday evening.
Petrich, 30, was on the job for almost two seasons. This season, the Bears are 15-23-2-2 and 14 points out of the final playoff spot in the North American Hockey League Midwest Division. Last season, the Bears finished 18-38-1-3 and had the second worst record in the league.
Kenai River is in its 12th season. The Bears have had seven coaches in that time. Oliver David is the only one to have finished with a record better than .500 and the last time the team made the playoffs is the 2013-14 season.
Assistant coach Dan Bogdan will take over on an interim basis, according to the press release. There are 18 games left in the regular season.
Petrich said he had a phone call with the management Sunday. He described the discussion as a “shock” and that both parties agreed to go opposite directions.
“We’ve agreed to go different directions and it’s the toughest decision I’ve ever made in my life,” said Petrich of the end of his first NAHL head coaching job.
Petrich, whose wife is Desiree and son is 9-month-old Landon, told the team Sunday.
“It’s the best thing for me and my family right now,” he said. “I love my 23 players and I’m not going to lie when I say I was in tears when I addressed them. I told them I have a wife and a son and it was the best decision for me and my family to go about it that way.”
The coach said he told the captains to go 18-0 the rest of the way and be the team that they really are.
Petrich constantly sang the praises of the community during his tenure, and that didn’t change Sunday. He said he has seen this community is especially strong when it faces adversity.
“I want all the players, parents, billets, volunteers, sponsors, general fans and all of Brown Bear nation to know that Desi and I have never had two better years in our life,” he said. “We welcomed our son into this world in this peninsula community, and it’s truly a spot we’ll hold near and dear to our hearts the rest of our lives.
“This is truly a special place.”
Petrich said he hasn’t even changed his opinion of the organization much, recalling a moment after a sweep of the Topeka (Kansas) Pilots on Feb. 1 and 2.
“I sat with Desi and Landon after we swept Topeka. I looked at her — the rink was empty and we were the only people in the rink — and told her this is truly a special place in junior hockey and good things are going to happen here,” he said. “Sitting here on this phone call, I still believe that.”
Petrich also still believes in the team and the ability of Bogdan to lead it. He said one of the first things he learned in coaching is that if you look to your left and look to your right and know you’re the dumbest guy on the bench, you’re doing something right.
“I truly believe Dan is a bright young mind in the game and I’m truly excited for him to get this opportunity,” Petrich said. “He’s got a lot to look forward to.”
Petrich is not sure what his next step is, but he said he enjoys being a part of the community — that the community has been a support system for his family — and he doesn’t want that to change.
“Just because I’m not the Brown Bears coach and I don’t know what the next step is, if you see us in the grocery store, say hi, or if you see us in the post office, say hi,” he said. “We could be gone next week or the end of the summer. You never know. I might want to stick around and catch some fish.”
Petrich said he has helped players achieve their dreams as head coach. Whatever job he takes in the future, he wants to still help people achieve their dreams.
“I know I’m a better person for taking this job,” he said. “I truly believe I left this community a better place than when I started here.”