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Winnipeg’s Paul Jerrard Passes Away Following Long Battle with Cancer

Photo by Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images

Winnipeg’s Paul Jerrard Passes Away Following Long Battle with Cancer

On Thursday morning, the University of Omaha announced the passing of well-travelled assistant coach Paul Jerrard following a private battle with cancer. According to the team, the hockey pioneer died in hospital on Wednesday.

He was 57.

The Winnipeg product spent 14 years playing professional and collegiate hockey, peaking with a five-game call-up to the NHL’s Minnesota North Stars during the 1988-89 season. Following his time at Lake Superior State University, Jerrard played within the NHL, AHL and IHL, racking up ___ goals and ___ points in 661 career games for nine different professional teams. He retired from professional play as an AHL champion with the Hershey Bears in 1997.

But it wasn’t his playing career where the former ninth round pick (New York Rangers, 1983) earned his recognition, but rather his time spent on the bench as a coach. Returning to his Alma Mater, he served as an assistant for the Lakers for four seasons in the late 1990s and early 2000s, before transitioning to the AHL. He coached 12 years in the minors, while also getting a shot at an assistant coaching gig in the NHL. He spent three separate stints on the rosters of the Colorado Avalanche, Dallas Stars and Calgary Flames. At one point, he was the only Black man on any of the NHL’s coaching staffs.

Most recently, Jerrard was with the University of Nebraska-Omaha, where he has served each of the past five seasons as an assistant.

“It is with great sadness that we announce the passing of assistant coach, Paul Jerrard,” Omaha head coach Mike Cabinet said. “Paul had been quietly fighting a long-term battle with cancer. Our program will be forever indebted to PJ for his countless positive impact. PJ attacked each day with a team first attitude, vibrant enthusiasm, and an unmatched willingness to help grow and develop our young men. Knowing PJ first as my coach in pro hockey, and now having had the chance to work alongside him each day, I am beyond grateful for the lessons he shared and the loyal friendship we forged.

“There were no small jobs for PJ, and he never had a bad day, he made the people around him better and we will forever miss his presence in our locker room and lives. He was a man who lived his life with great integrity, class, and the desire to always be the best role-model and citizen he could be. He was my coach, mentor, colleague and most importantly friend who will be deeply missed. Our thoughts and prayers are with his wife Cheryl and daughters Catherine & Meaghan.”

Jerrard was a member of the NHL’s Coaches’ Association BIPOC (Black Indigenous People Of Colour) Program, to which he was actively engaged.

He also spent time coaching current Winnipeg Jets defenceman Brenden Dillon, who was visibly shaken up at the sudden news of his passing on Thursday.

“I really can’t say enough good things about him,” Dillon said in Columbus. “Obviously, as a coach, his main role, but as a person, too, connectivity with the players. I think everyone that had him would say nothing but good things… He was so prepared for games, practices, after practices. He spent the time to work on whatever it was you wanted to as a player. One of the best people in hockey.”

Jets head coach Rick Bowness – who is one of the very most travelled individuals to ever grace the bench – had surprisingly not worked alongside Jerrard over the course of his career, but did come in contact with him on numerous occasions. The two even became ‘texting buddies’ of sorts.

“He was good to call sometimes or send me a text,” coach Bones said. “Over the last couple of years, we’ve been in contact a few times. It was pretty heartbreaking to hear that sad news today… A wonderful guy. A good coach and a good person. As a coach, you want to leave more of an impression on your players than just coaching. You want to teach them to be good people and be good human beings and good fathers and good role models. Paul obviously had an effect on that.”

The news of Jerrard’s death did catch the two Jets connections by surprise, with Dillon mentioning he didn’t even know he was battling cancer.

“He never really mentioned he was sick or anything. It was about, ‘How are you doing, Dilly?’ ‘How are things going with your family?’ as opposed to him. Again, it speaks to him and the character that he has and how much he cares about everybody else.”

Paul is survived by his wife Cheryl and two daughters, Catherine and Meaghan.

Carter Brooks - Associate Editor of Game On Magazine - is a news writer and sports columnist situated in Winnipeg, MB. On top of reading and writing, his favourite pastimes include camping, car-modification projects and coaching hockey. Carter can be reached at or on Twitter at @GameOnHockey.


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