First Nations coach hired to lead expansion franchise in northern Ontario

Wednesday, June 21st, 2023 7:17pm


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Cody Genaille to join the Kenora Islanders as head coach.
By Sam Laskaris
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

Cody Genaille is taking another step up the hockey coaching ladder.

In accepting a Junior A head coaching position, Genaille, a member of Opaskwayak Cree Nation in Manitoba, will move about nine hours away from his current home, and will leave the majority of his family members behind.

Genaille, who is living in the Manitoba city of Thompson, was named the head coach of the Kenora Islanders on June 20.

The Islanders, based in northern Ontario, are an expansion franchise squad that will participate in the Superior International Junior Hockey League (SIJHL), starting with the 2023-24 season.

Genaille, who is married and has five children ranging in age from nine to 15, said his entire family will not initially be able to move with him to Kenora.

That’s because the Genailles own a dance studio in Thompson, which his wife Ashley operates.

“She’s already committed to the year there,” Genaille said.

But his 14-year-old son, who was an affiliated player with an Under-15 AAA squad this past season, will move with him to Kenora, in part, to improve his chances of bettering his own hockey pursuits.

Genaille said he’s hoping his wife and four other children will be able to make several visits to Kenora throughout the season.

“My wife has started to work on that to make it happen,” he said.

Genaille said his family frequently travels about seven hours from their current home to the Manitoba capital of Winnipeg for various reasons.

“Driving a couple of extra hours to Kenora would be nothing,” he said.

Genaille joins the Islanders having spent the past four seasons working as the head coach and assistant general manager of the NCN Flames, which represent Nisichawayasihk Cree Nation.

The Flames are a Junior B club based in Nelson House, Man.

Genaille has been building the Flames, a team that competes in the Keystone Junior Hockey League, since their inception in 2019.

Since the SIJHL regular season begins in September, Genaille doesn’t have much time to prepare the Islanders for their inaugural campaign.

The club will host an identification camp from July 21 to July 23, hoping to find plenty of players eager and capable of suiting up for the team this coming season. He’s banking on his connections throughout the hockey world will help him find some players that would have the skill level to toil with the Kenora squad.

“Being involved in the hockey world, you know somebody who knows somebody,” he said of how he will be able to land some competent players.

Since ice times in Kenora for the coming year have already been delegated to several other users, it is believed that the Islanders will not be able to play all of their home contests in their city during the 2023-24 season.

It’s been reported the nearby community of Vermillion Bay has stepped up and offered to let the Islanders play several of their games in town.

“I haven’t been part of those discussions so I don’t know,” Genaille said.

But if the Islanders do have two ‘home’ rinks this season, that will not be anything new for Genaille.

The NCN Flames have split their home games between Thompson and Nelson House since their inception.

“There’s a lot of similarities to the program,” Genaille said. “If that happens and we do play out of two locations, I’ll know what to expect.”

Islanders’ president Tim Gosnell is pleased to have Genaille join the organization.

“His extensive coaching experience and genuine enthusiasm for the game make him an exceptional addition to our staff,” he said. “We look forward to an exciting season ahead under his leadership.”

Genaille, who is 33, has been coaching teams at various levels for 13 seasons. He himself had played at the Junior A level.  But he stopped playing when he was 18. He became a father the following year.

And then the year after that Genaille started his coaching career. He’s eager to be a bench boss at the highest levels possible.

“My whole idea when I got into it was to coach at every level,” Genaille said, adding that yes, that hopefully includes working in the pro ranks someday.

The Islanders will be one of eight squads that will compete in the SIJHL this upcoming season.

Six other clubs based in northern Ontario will take part. They are the Dryden Ice Dogs, Fort Frances Lakers, Kam River Fighting Walleye, Red Lake Miners, Sioux Lookout Bombers and Thunder Bay North Stars.

An American franchise, the Wisconsin Lumberjacks, also participates in the league.

Local Journalism Initiative Reporters are supported by a financial contribution made by the Government of Canada.