University of Nebraska Omaha Assistant Hockey Coach Paul Jerrard has been posthumously announced as the recipient of FCA's 2023 John Olver Character Coach Award. The John Olver Character Coach Award is presented annually to a hockey coach who exemplifies the Christian principles of Service, Excellence, Dedication, and Love — both on and off the ice. In 2021, Coach John Olver himself was honored as the inaugural recipient of the award.
“Paul Jerrard has made an incredible contribution to the hockey community, but more importantly, to the Kingdom of God,” said Shane Williamson, FCA President and CEO. “He ran his race well and generations to come are going to benefit from Coach Jerrard’s legacy of service, excellence, and character development.”
Jerrard had an extensive coaching career that spanned 26 years, all as an assistant coach. He coached 5 seasons in the NHL (with Colorado, Dallas and Calgary), 12 years in the AHL and 9 years in the NCAA (4 with his alma mater Lake Superior State University and five years at the University of Nebraska Omaha). He spent two seasons with the Calgary Flames (2016-18) before coming to Omaha. Among his other NHL stints, he was an assistant coach for the Dallas Stars for two years and with the Colorado Avalanche for one season. Jerrard also had significant development experience as an assistant coach in the American Hockey League, working with the top prospects of Colorado, Dallas, Vancouver and the New York Islanders.
On a personal level, Jerrard had an even bigger impact. Mike Kemp, University of Nebraska Omaha’s Executive Associate Athletic Director, commented on Jerrard’s legacy:
“Coach Jerrard left a lasting impression on the lives of each and every young man that he coached. He did this through his daily investment in the lives of the people he encountered. While he spent time daily in the study of God’s word, he modeled Jesus’ teaching in his interactions with all whom he came in contact with. He worked tirelessly with his athletes to develop their skill, their character, and their sense of how to be a godly person in a violent game. Coach Jerrard gave all of himself to the community on a daily basis. He would be the first to volunteer to serve others in need, whether at his church, at a community center, or simply with someone who needed a hand up. As both an African American hockey player and coach, he served as a true role model for so many minorities interested in pursuing an opportunity to participate in ice hockey.
“Paul Jerrard was a godly man who embodied the best characteristics of a Christian. He was a man of character, humble, served others, modeled God’s love, and loved the Lord.”
University of Nebraska Omaha’s Athletics Chaplain Mike Martin noted, “Coach Jerrard was a model of selflessness, genuine care, and commitment. He reflected the unconditional love of Jesus Christ and made it easy for others to comprehend and understand, and subsequently be drawn to a relationship with Jesus. He was always inspiring others through his words, actions, care, and deeds. He unlocked a rare competitive nature in the athletes he coached and created a drive within players and coaches to be the best version of themselves they could be for teammates and for others off the ice.
“His mission statement was, ‘My purpose is to motivate the unmotivated, educate the uneducated and provide compassion for those in need.’ Coach Jerrard is deeply missed, but he understood the difference between the temporal and the eternal. He wanted to have as much impact in the temporal as he could so he could ensure the eternal state of the lives of everyone he touched.”
Photos courtesy of Omaha Athletics and Calgary Flames