Former Peterborough Petes player Matt Carkner lands head coaching job in Orlando
One door closed and another one opened in Matt Carkner’s coaching career.
The former Peterborough Petes captain was released last summer from his assistant coaching gig with the AHL’s Bridgeport Sound Tigers after five seasons with the New York Islanders affiliate.
Last month Carkner, 41, got his first head coaching job and added the title of general manager with the ECHL’s Orlando Solar Bears, an affiliate of the Tampa Bay Lightning.
During the year off Carkner was an assistant coach for his son’s U14 AAA team in Mid-Fairfield, Conn. And it gave him time to re-evaluate his career.
“I interviewed for several assistant coach jobs in the AHL but I really did not get that feeling that this was a perfect match until I interviewed for the head coaching job in Orlando,” Carkner said.
“Obviously Orlando is beautiful and the facility is gorgeous but ultimately it was having that control over decisions and making the roster and really having the final say to build the team the way you desire. That was really attractive to me. ”
He also believed his coaching aspirations were best served by shifting to a head coaching role.
“Ultimately I do want to go to the highest level possible and I do not think I’ll be able to move forward without going through something like this where I’m able to improve and learn a lot in a short period of time being. a head coach and general manager, ”he said.
In addition to coaching the Solar Bears, Carkner will be responsible for overseeing the club’s hockey operations – including managing support staff, recruiting and signing players, co-ordinating with both the Lightning and their AHL affiliate Syracuse Crunch and supporting the local youth hockey initiatives. the Solar Bears.
“It’s a lot of responsibility,” he said. “You’re going to be managing a lot and learning a lot while dealing with a lot of good coaches in the Tampa Bay organization with Syracuse. We’ll also have some access to the San Jose organization through the Barracuda.
As a part of Bridgeport’s coaching staff, Carkner oversaw the team’s defensive zone schemes and penalty-killing unit, in addition to handling individual player skill development, video pre-scouting and analytics. During that time, he aided in the development of current NHL defencemen including Sebastian Aho, Adam Pelech, Ryan Pulock and Devon Toews.
He also helped guide his son’s team to a quarter-final appearance at the 2022 USA Hockey Tier I 14U National Championships.
As a player, Carkner enjoyed a 15-year professional career that included 237 games in the NHL with the San Jose Sharks, Ottawa Senators and Islanders, where he recorded 27 points (four goals, 23 assists) and 556 penalty minutes.
Carkner also played 587 games in the AHL collecting 152 points (36 goals, 116 assists) and 1,756 penalty minutes with the Cleveland Barons, Wilkes-Barre / Scranton Penguins, Binghamton Senators and Bridgeport.
He served as team captain while with Cleveland and held alternate captain roles for each AHL club he played for. Carkner was named the recipient of the AHL’s Yanick Dupré Memorial Award in 2006-07 for his community involvement.
He was a second-round pick (58th overall) by the Montreal Canadiens in the 1999 NHL Draft, and played four seasons of major junior hockey with the Petes prior to turning pro, serving as team captain in his final two seasons.
A native of Winchester, Ont., Carkner and his wife Kary have two children, Chase and Corbin, and are involved with the Capital City Condors (Ottawa) and Long Island Blues adapted hockey team programs for players with special needs. Both his sons attend the South Kent Selects Hockey Academy in Connecticut.
He and his cousin Bryan Helmer, who was a Petes assistant coach for two years, married sisters Kary and Pam Baker from their hometown of Winchester, south of Ottawa.