Jean-Guy Trudel became the 19th head coach in Peoria Rivermen franchise history on May 25, 2013 and served as the team’s first head coach in its Southern Professional Hockey League era. He also became the third former player to return as head coach and enters his seventh year as a professional head coach for the 2019-20 season.
In six years with the Rivermen, Trudel has amassed an overall 215-80-41 Regular Season record, taking Peoria to the playoffs in each of his first six seasons at the helm. With his guidance, the Rivermen won back-to-back William B. Coffey trophies as the SPHL's regular season champion during the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons, capturing the title again in 2017-18 and 2018-19, and have reached the President's Cup Finals in three consecutive postseasons from 2016-18. Trudel has also captured the SPHL Coach of the Year award three times (2014-15, 15-16, and 17-18), becoming the first coach in SPHL history to win the award more than once.
Before joining the Rivermen, Trudel, 43, spent three seasons as the head coach of the amateur Peoria Mustangs (North American 3 Hockey League). During his tenure, the Mustangs qualified for the playoffs in each season and compiled a record of 77-52-12. He won 11 additional playoff games and led the Mustangs to the NA3HL Silver Cup Championship this past March.
Inducted into the Peoria Rivermen Hockey Hall of Fame in 2011, Trudel played 177 games for Peoria over parts of three seasons. Overall, he finished with 234 points (87g, 147a) and had another 19 points in 12 ECHL playoff games between 1996 and 1998.
While Trudel’s previous coaching experience was limited to amateur hockey before joining the Rivermen, he has the opportunity to learn under an impressive list of professional coaches. While in the minors, he was coached by Paul MacLean and Mark Reeds, who later became head coach and assistant coach, respectively with the Ottawa Senators. He also played for Houston's AHL Calder Cup champions in 2002-03 under Todd McLellan, who went on to head coaching jobs with NHL San Jose and Edmonton. And he played for Dave Farrish, John Torchetti, and Ron Wilson, all with current or past NHL coaching resumes. While Trudel played with AHL Peoria, future NHL bench bosses Davis Payne and Brent Thompson were assistant coaches.
Trudel broke into professional hockey at 21 years old with the ECHL Rivermen. Amidst frequent call-ups to the International Hockey League, Trudel still managed to put up 54 points (25g, 29a) in only 37 games. He returned the next season and racked up 113 points (39g, 74a) in only 62 games. He finished just six points back of Jamey Hicks (Birmingham) for the ECHL scoring title and appeared in eight fewer games. A starter for Team Canada at the 1998 ECHL All-Star Game, Trudel also ranked second on the team with 147 penalty minutes that season.
He graduated to the IHL/AHL ranks the next season and his success continued. He went on to become an AHL all-star four times in the next five seasons with Springfield from 1999-2002 and Houston in 2002-03, winning the 2003 Calder Cup with the Aeros. He also appeared in five NHL games with Phoenix and Minnesota. After four seasons in Switzerland playing for Ambri-Piotta, Trudel returned for one season with the AHL Rivermen in 2007-08. He led the team in assists (44) and points (67) in 78 games that year. He returned to Switzerland for the next two years and retired after the 2009-10 season.
Jason Christie, who coached five ECHL seasons with the Rivermen, and Mark Reeds, who was an assistant coach for four seasons before serving as a head coach for three, are the only other former Rivermen players to return as a head coach.