JANESVILLE, WI – About ten years ago, Lennie Childs’ visits to the Jets coaches’ office were as a player, to connect with head coach Dane Litke or assistant coach Jason Dobes. Parker Burgess’ visits to the same office were to pick Litke’s brain on a few players Burgess envisioned joining him at University of St. Thomas.
Monday morning, they visited the same office to begin building a championship team together.
Burgess made his first appearance in Janesville as the new head coach of the Jets today. About a four-and-a-half hours’ drive away, he and his wife Jessie have been enjoying a little rest and relaxation at their cabin near Spooner. Ahead of them now are packing up their place in Boston, and finding a new home in Janesville.
Burgess made some time on a busy day to sit down with janesvillejets.com and introduce himself to the fanbase.
janesvillejets.com: This town and our fans are going to be learning a lot about you this summer, but what would you say is the “elevator pitch” of Parker Burgess? What should fans know about you right away?
Parker Burgess: I’m a pretty positive, energetic, enthusiastic guy who loves to be at the rink. I enjoy building relationships with players, fans, and community. You’ll be seeing a lot of me. I like to immerse myself in the community. I’m excited to get to work here in Janesville and continue to enhance the brand the Jets have built.
jj: It’s pretty well-known that you’re already familiar with Joe Dibble, and now you get a chance to work together. How would you describe what the GM/head coach relationship will look like between Joe Dibble and Parker Burgess?
PB: It’s going to be a collaborative relationship. Joe has had a ton of success at this level. That was a big part of being able to make this move and transition, knowing I have someone like Joe whom I trust and respect, who I know will provide the support I need to be successful. This is obviously my first year coaching junior hockey. As much as I’ve played at this level and been recruiting out of it for the past ten years, I haven’t until now had the opportunity to coach junior hockey, and be fully immersed in it. I won’t know everything off the bat; there’ll be a learning curve for me, so to have Joe there to provide direction and stability and support is going to be extremely beneficial for me and for the Jets.
jj: You’ve gotten to know Lennie Childs over the last few days. President Bill McCoshen has described you both as big “culture” guys who have a lot in common. What sort of relationship are you looking forward to building with Lennie?
PB: Again, a collaborative one. I gotta be honest, I’ve never coached in a total hierarchy. It’s always been fluid and collaborative. Lennie and I share the energy and enthusiasm for the game of hockey, for the players, and for the Jets organization. A lot of our core values and philosophies align. Lennie played here, coaches here, and has a wife from Janesville. I’m going to be able to learn just as much, if not more, from him than he is from me. I’m excited to collaborate and work with him on the on-ice and off-ice success. We share the same visions regarding player development, advancement, and about building the overall culture of excellence. We’re both competitive and want to bring a Robertson Cup to Janesville.
jj: It was a very young Jets team last year, and though there will be a few lost to the USHL, there looks to be a bigger batch of returners this fall than usual. You’ve reached out to all of those guys by now. How have those conversations gone?
PB: It’s been really positive. It’s interesting because there are so many unknowns. Some guys will potentially be in the USHL, so there’s uncertainty there, but there’s also a ton of uncertainty in general with what’s going on around the world. So I think players are looking for direction. It’s tough, because an introductory phone conversation doesn’t provide a ton of real substance, but it’s good to get those connections made early on. I’m actually going to have lunch with a few returners today. My next few weeks being in Wisconsin, I’ll connect with as many current players within driving distance as I can, and look forward to building those relationships through the summer and into Main Camp.
jj: Just one on-ice question. Top to bottom, this game has obviously been transforming pretty rapidly, even in just the last decade, and the NAHL has shown that pretty dramatically from the style of play when the Jets began to what the league displays now in all 27 teams. If the Jets win a big game in the perfect “Parker Burgess” style, what does that look like?
PB: That’s a good question. It’s hard to say exactly. It’s difficult for me to say right now exactly how we’re going to play. We want to play a competitive, exciting brand of hockey, sure. That’s what the people of Janesville want to come see. The entertainment aspect is important in junior hockey. But I haven’t been able to see these kids on the ice together as a group, and until you see that, it’s hard to say what our identity will be. It’s trendy and buzzy to say we’re going to play “up tempo” or “fast-paced,” and of course we want to do those things, but you have to know your horses before you run the race. We need to fit our style of play into the personnel we have. Corey, Lennie, and Joe have done a great job bringing the Jets a lot of high-level talent, and you couple that with some experience that we’ll be bringing back. For me, the details, the habits, those standards are non-negotiables. The competitiveness and making sure we finish out games doesn’t always guarantee wins and losses. We want to make sure that, win or lose, the town of Janesville, our fans, our billets, and we ourselves are proud of the efforts put forth every single night. Again, it’s kind of buzz-wordy, but we want our guys to trust the process. Sitting down and getting to know Lennie, we’re getting good traction on knowing what that process will look like.
jj: Some quick “get to know you” questions here. First: you’re on a winning streak — any superstitions? Same breakfast? Same tie?
PB: I’m a hockey guy, so probably a bit of everything. Being a coach, you tell yourself to control what you can control. Sometimes that’s a little detail like what I’m wearing or eating. I’ve still got a lot of player in me, which is tough to shake. I still have some superstitions with ties and shoes and stuff, but I’m trying to get away from it a bit.
jj: Gum or no gum on the bench?
PB: I’m gum, yeah.
jj: What flavor?
PB: Doublemint. Gotta make a switch at some point. I don’t chew gum regularly, but the pressure gets high behind the bench sometimes. It’s something I learned from my boss [Jeff Boeser], the guy I worked for at St. Thomas for five years. He chewed a ton of gum.
jj: Every coach needs their quick, offseason getaway from hockey. What’s yours? Golf course? Beach? Cottage on the lake?
PB: I enjoy fly fishing. I like to get out on the river, whether it’s in western Canada, or for the past five years it’s been in New England, or being able to come back to Wisconsin. My wife has a lot of hunting land around a cabin up in the Spooner/Minong area. We like to spend time there, being outdoors, and just get refreshed.
jj: Besides hockey, what’s your favorite sport to watch? Any favorite teams or athletes?
PB: I’m a baseball guy. Played it growing up. But you know what, it’s kind of weird, I’ve never necessarily had a favorite team or player in any sport. I’ve always appreciated great teams, great players, great cultures. Never been a die-hard fan of any team, except of course Team Canada.
jj: Favorite TV show you’ve watched during work-from-home?
PB: Sunderland ‘Til I Die, on Netflix. It’s about an English football team. It’s almost like a 24/7 behind their culture and a season in their life, how it’s run from the business operations to the marketing, the coaching, the players…I’ve really enjoyed that one.
jj: Last question’s a biggie. Fill in the blank: the Janesville Jets will celebrate their first ever Robertson Cup Championship in May 2021 if ________________________________________.
PB: Everybody buys in and believes we can accomplish that. I believe that’s everybody, from the staff to the support staff, to the players, the billets, the fans, the rink guys, everybody. If everybody really believes it, we can create a culture where that goal seems feasible. If that happens, there’s no reason we can’t, with the group we have coming back, the resources and support we have, we can get the job done.