Jamie Tardif Settling into Dual Role with Mallards

Author: Bobby Matcalf, Lee News Network
Date: Dec 19, 2017

MOLINE — Twelve years and nine teams later, Jamie Tardif is back in the ECHL.

A lot has changed in his absence.

“It’s definitely different from when I was here,” Tardif said. “Back then it was more of league where you go to kind of retire and settle things down, where now it’s just so young and fast ... you don’t really understand how young the game is in North America and how well these kids can skate and move and the skill level.”

At 32, Tardif is the oldest player on the Quad City Mallards this season, serving as the team’s first player assistant coach since the Flock joined the ECHL in 2014.

Tardiff started his pro career in 2006 with the Toledo Storm in the ECHL before getting a midseason call-up to the AHL. Tardif played one game for the Manitoba Moose, two with the Iowa Stars and 27 with the Grand Rapids Griffins to close out that season, setting off a eight-year Triple-A stint that also saw him receive a brief two-game stint in the NHL with the Boston Bruins.

Before joining the Mallards, Tardiff played the last three seasons with the Mannheim Eagles in the German Deutsche Eishockey Liga.

“What these guys are going through now, being young and in the ECHL, I went through it and I think that’s one of the biggest assets I have,” he said. “The leadership, knowing what it takes to get to the next level and stay at the next level.”

With his career winding down, Tardif knew he wanted to get into coaching but wasn’t quite ready to be done as a player.

It was actually Bob McNamara — who was let go as Mallards president and general manager — who had a big influence in getting Tardif to come to the Quad-Cities. McNamara was the general manager of the Grand Rapids Griffins for 15 seasons, five of which overlapped with Tardif’s stint with the Griffins.

“Bob is the reason why I’m here,” Tardif said. “Unfortunately that is part of the business ... it’s unfortunate and I wish him the best.”

Tardif’s return to the ECHL has been a little less heralded than possibly expected for someone who came in this year with 177 goals and 177 assists. He had just two points in his first eight games then missed six games with an upper body injury.

“I knew there was definitely going to be a little break-in period, whether it’s the ice size of where I played the last three years, the skill level and different things,” Tardif said. “I haven’t played a back-to-back game here in almost four years so to do the back-to-backs and three-in-threes and all the bus travel, all that combined has definitely created some challenges.”

Since his return on Nov. 24, however, Tardif appears to be settling in. He has six points in the last eight games, including his first two goals of the season. He’s also done a better job of creating opportunities for himself, averaging nearly half a shot per game more since returning from the injury.

“I’ve been around long enough to judge myself, whether it’s a good game or bad,” he said. “It’s a matter of staying the course and staying positive and that’s hard for a lot of players to do. It’s coming around now so hopefully it can continue.”

The role of player assistant also has taken some time to get used to.

One of Tardif’s initial roles was to be in charge of the power play but the Mallards started the season 0-or-15 on the man advantage through the first four games. That led QC head man Phil Axtell to take over control and since that decision, the Mallards are 13-for-63, operating at 20.6 percent, which is seventh-best in the ECHL over that span.

“Coming in, even through training camp I think it was not knowing anyone on this team, who’s a power play guy and who’s not?” said Tardif, who just got the power-play duties back this week. “You’ve just got to try and find different fits and that was a challenge ... now we’re starting to see it, it’s getting better but I still think we’ve got a little ways to go.”

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