Jim Bottomley figures he has spent more time at the Halifax Forum than anybody on the planet.
He stood behind Halifax junior A benches for more than two decades as a head coach — winning 10 Maritime titles and a national championship — and has been honoured with a plaque commemorating his achievements.
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But the 54-year-old has never been on the opposing bench at the Forum, and is about to get a new vantage point when he returns as head coach of the Bridgewater Lumberjacks to face the Halifax Lions tomorrow night at 7:30 p.m.
For the first time, he’ll be a stranger in his own home.
“I’m looking forward to getting back in the old building,” Bottomley said. “I have a lot of memories in that place and I’m hoping to come back and put on a good show.”
The Halifax native returned to the junior A loop this season after a four-year hiatus. He retired in May and is enjoying his full-time commitment to coaching. The Lumberjacks, who practice daily at the Metro Centre, are off to a 3-6-4 start.
Adding to the intrigue of tomorrow’s matchup is the fact Bottomley will be coaching against Lions bench boss Troy Ryan, who played for Bottomley at the Forum in the 1990s. Ryan, a gritty forward, was among the coach’s favourites.
“The smallest guy but the biggest heart,” Bottomley said.
Bottomley’s official win-loss record is unknown, but he estimates he has coached nearly 1,000 regular season and playoff games at the Forum. Tomorrow will give him yet another Forum story to tell — as if he doesn’t have enough already.
“I could tell some good stories about that building, but I can’t tell them for the paper,” Bottomley said with a laugh.
“A lot of good things went on, a lot of bad things. I had a lot of good times at the Forum, and I’ll always call it home.”