SIOUX CITY | Jay Varady took a break from packing his apartment to check out how his close friend Luke Strand is operating this week’s Sioux City Musketeers training camp.
“I’m here as a sounding board,” said Varady, as he shivered from the top row of the IBP Ice Center.
On Aug. 28, Varady will start his first training camp with the Ontario Hockey League’s Kingston Frontenacs, a team that like the Musketeers, plays in a junior hockey league where skaters range in age from 16 to 20. Like the United States Hockey League, academics are also stressed in the OHL.
However, there's a difference. Varady said that players stay longer in the OHL, while it’s common to see USHL athletes compete for a year, then move on to college.
“For me, it’s about making sure there is a smooth transition and everyone is headed down the right path as Luke tries to transition into his new role,” said Varady. “It’s really special to see Luke come in and take over, being part of the staff in the past. I feel comfortable moving on that there is going to be a lot of success coming here.”
Varady was the third winningest coach in Musketeers’ history, posting a 136-88-10 record. Three of his four teams reached the playoffs, including last season’s 40-13-7 Anderson Cup-winning squad which won the Western Conference regular-season championship for the second time in the last three years and lost a tense five-game Clark Cup Championship series to the Chicago Steel.
Varady describes his feelings about leaving the Musketeers as “bittersweet,” considering the relationships he had with players, coaching staffs and the Lloyd Ney-led ownership group.
Strand, who served as the Musketeers' general manager for the final six months of the 2013-14 season, said his “close buddy” is having a hard time letting go.
“When you put a lot of time, emotions are involved in time," said Strand. "That’s the beauty of going through a group that achieved success. It’s hard to let go. But I know he’s really eager about his new opportunity. His stamp will forever be here.”
Varady began his coaching career as a student member of the Union College staff. He also coached for the North American Hockey League’s Pittsburgh Forge, the World Hockey League’s Everett Silvertips and in France’s Ligue Magnus’ Ducs d’Angers.
“This is a new life challenge more than anything,” said Varady. “(Kingston) is a group of players that had a good season last year that had a great coaching staff. Their coach moved on to be an assistant coach with the Florida Panthers. They have a really good foundation they have established as an organization and we’re going to go there and try to build on that.”