Winnipeg Jets’ head coach Paul Maurice is superstitious to the point that he believes he may have single-handedly won the Blue Bombers the Grey Cup in 2019.
“If I turned it on three or four years ago, I was cheering hard for [the Bombers] and nothing good was happening,” Maurice told Paul Friesen of the Winnipeg Sun. “So I would actually at times not be allowed to be inside the house when my wife was watching the Blue Bombers play.”
The team seemed to improve after Maurice stopped tuning into their games, so he avoided watching at all costs. That changed by accident when the Jets travelled to Tennessee in November 2019 on a road trip that coincided with the West Division Semi-Final between Winnipeg and Calgary.
“I turned on the TV in Nashville and the Blue Bombers are playing,” Maurice said. “It’s not supposed to be on TV in Nashville. I turn it on, and I’m going, ‘Oh, sh–!’ Except when I turn it on they score a touchdown, and I’m going, ‘Well, maybe this is the change.’ And they win. Now the superstition has switched, so then I had to watch them. And then they go on to win the Grey Cup.
“I may have single-handedly won the Blue Bombers the Grey Cup. I never got a thank-you or anything.”
“He can have it,” Mike O’Shea told Friesen. “When they win the Stanley Cup this year, I’ll be at Portage and Main.”
Maurice was hired as the head coach of the Winnipeg Jets in January 2014, which was just six weeks after O’Shea became the head coach of the Winnipeg Blue Bombers.
Both franchises were struggling when their new bench bosses took over but have enjoyed a string of relative success since. The Jets have made the playoffs in each of the past four seasons and reached the Western Conference Finals in 2017-18, while the Blue Bombers ended a 29-year Grey Cup drought in 2019.
“They were both in a rebuild,” said Maurice. “And with patient understanding of what it was going to look like for a few years before you’d start to reap some of the benefits of that rebuild. Both had maybe righted some wobble that was going on in the program.”
Maurice and O’Shea have enjoyed a rare period of stability since they arrived in Winnipeg. Maurice is the second-longest tenured head coach in the NHL behind Tampa Bay’s John Cooper, while the CFL’s other eight teams have all made at least one head coaching change since O’Shea was hired by the Blue Bombers.
The veteran hockey coach believes it’s important to try to keep things fresh even when a coach has been around the same team for a long time.
“If you’re not trying to change, get better, evolve every year, yeah, your message gets old,” Maurice said. “But you’re also then behind the game, which is even worse. So you constantly have to be (changing). And you’re given that opportunity, at least in the NHL, with the amount of changeover. And in the CFL, too. You can rebuild your team a little bit each year.”