What has been known since the end of the Cochrane Generals season is now official.

After five years with the Gens as head coach and four years as general manager, Jones is leaving the junior hockey club on good terms and was at the end of his contract extension signed in 2022.

Until the club signs a new coach and general manager, he intends to help in the background to prepare the team for next season. He wishes the team and its new coaching staff the best.

"One thing we say is once a General, always a General. I'm not just going to walk away. I'll be there if they need my help or to answer questions, I'll still help them build a program to be the best it can be."

Jones was signed as head coach of the Gens in July 2019, replacing Travis McMillan, who pursued a coaching career in B.C. A year later, he added the role of general manager. 

Having the chance to coach his son Stephen was a major factor in staying on in the option year.

Re-signingIn the spring of 2022, Jones signed a one-year contract with a one-year option. (file photo)

He says two major highlights was wining silver at the 2022 junior B provincials and receiving a title sponsorship from David Chamberland and his company Cannex Contracting.

"What Dave's done for us has been probably one of the highlights of the season for us. The team builders like the high ropes course, team dinner, the new jerseys and all that kind of fun stuff to make you feel like we're doing whatever we can to keep the players involved."

Jones has been coaching since he was 22 years old, and he is considering taking a break.

"I will certainly apply for some positions and see if it works for me and my family. But I also have an older son that has his last year junior hockey coming up and I have a younger son that's going to move on, so, I'm not quite sure if I want to be tied down. I may just travel and be a dad. Coaching is not done for me. I may take a year off, but we'll see what happens."

Jones began his coaching career with the Timberwolves AA program of Cochrane Minor Hockey. He credits Paddy Maclure with encouraging him to start a coaching career. Maclure has been involved with the Canmore Eagles, Cochrane Generals, HJHL and was arena supervisor in Cochrane for several years until recently returning to work in Canmore.

"He's the one that called me about the Eagles and got me the assistant coaching job there."

Jones had all but signed a coaching contract with the U18 AAA Bisons when they were still based in Strathmore when he got the job offer from the Eagles. 

"I was very fortunate to have that opportunity to coach with the Eagles organization and coaching staff. Andrew Milne set me up to be pretty successful as a coach and learn the aspects of what a full-time coaching position actually looks like."

He took two years off after the Eagles and returned to coaching when approached by the Generals

"I took those years to reevaluate and assess what I had to do to become a better coach. And then I came in, and it's been nothing but great from there."

In Cochrane, he quickly got to work building the Gens program and refining its hockey culture.

"It always a challenge your first year but it was a comfortable group of people to work with and I think we were pretty successful."

That first season, the Gens advanced to the HJHL south finals. The day after they tied up the series with the Okotoks Bisons, Hockey Canada shut down all on and off ice hockey-related activities due to the pandemic.

To this day, Jones is convinced they would have won the series.

When hockey returned after the COVID pause, the Gens had a shot at a HJHL title. They won the north division and played the Okotoks Bisons in the league final. The Bisons overpowered the Gens four games straight.

At provincials, it was a different story. The Gens won silver and the Bisons bronze.

The Gens received the nicknamed "The Cardiac Kids" by the broadcast crew of HNLive, who streamed the entire provincials. The Gens won three of their game on late goals by the one-two combo of Tristan Ripplinger and Patrick Forde.

"It was very exciting for us, and it was very exciting for me. Coaching for as long as I've coached, you don't get a lot of opportunities to play in the final game. We ended up losing in the final, but we were proud of the team we built and very happy with the success of our players."

He says he's been fortunate to have great player leadership groups, and he salutes captains Brandon Aabs, Patrick Forde and Tristan Ripplinger and all their assistants.

Jones believes there's more to a hockey club than what you see on the scoreboard.

"As a coach, you're always judged on wins and losses. But the reality is, you should be judged as a coach by how much you do on and off the ice to build the confidence in players, how players react to you as a coach, and how they become better young men, not just hockey players.

"When we were in the playoffs, we had six guys in the office from the first Gens team I coached. It's always rewarding when you get guys coming back and keeping in contact with you. To me, that's more important than the wins and losses."

Jones with hat trickKurtis Jones with team mascot Hat-Trick during the sledge hockey fundraising event on Jan. 26. (file photo)

He also believes it is essential for the Gens to be part of the community outside of the rink and appreciates the support they received in turn.

Jones thanks everyone who have been supportive over the years, the SLS Centre, Paddy and Nick Maclure, club president Rick Richards, assistant GM Gordana Ripplinger, the board of directors, all the fans, especially super fan Deirdre Fennell, his family, the sponsors, the community, and Cochrane Now.

"I's been pleasure to work with everybody and to have such a great vibe. I coached junior eight for nine seasons and I had a lot of fun there, but I have to give props to the Generals because they really taking care of the kids and taking care of myself and our staff. It's just been outstanding."