7 juin 2024

Des héros méconnus ont rendu possible la carrière d’entraîneur de Pat Perles, de ROUGE eT NOIR

Ottawa REDBLACKS’ Offensive Line Coach Pat Perles has never thrown away a good box.

Movement has been one of the constants in Perles’ career, spending time in the CFL with Winnipeg, Saskatchewan, and Hamilton, where he won a Grey Cup in 1999. He’s had stops with Michigan State University, where his father, George Perles, was inducted into the MSU Athletic Hall of Fame, and working with both the Los Angeles Rams and the Kansas City Chiefs.

Joining the REDBLACKS’ staff in 2024, Perles says that his return to Canadian soil has been in the works for a long time, and has left one member of his family happy as a clam.

“My wife has been wanting to come back – she’s a proud Canadian,” Perles said. “Everything just worked out. You don’t get to choose where or when you go in coaching, you assess everything year by year, and some years, you have a job, and others, you don’t.”

Pat met his wife Karen – a St. Catherines native – in his time in Winnipeg, and the pair formed a quick bond. Before long, they moved in together, pulling Karen into the chaotic world of building and maintaining a relationship with a professional football coach.

“He has a bit of a wanderlust, and I kind of knew from the beginning that we would be moving a lot,” Karen said. “When we were childfree, or with a baby, we could go anywhere, but there were other moves I cried a lot over, but we just made the best of it. Honestly, every place we’ve lived, we’ve had great experiences, you just have to find the good.”

During his first scrum with the media in Ottawa, Pat quickly made mention of the impact his wife and three children have on his ability to continue coaching, thanks to their repeated sacrifice.

“It’s essential,” Pat said. “I couldn’t do this without her support. She has had to move a bunch of places she may not have been interested in. I get a job and start the next day, but Mom and the kids are back home trying to sell the house and packing boxes.”

For Karen, the relationship has come with its share of hardship, especially in the years when she and the kids couldn’t follow Pat on his coaching endeavours. Some years, they were separated by great distance, tasking Karen with the children, sometimes in the last city Pat coached in.

Some of those cities weren’t Karen’s ideal home, but she never complained, always willing to do whatever, or go wherever she needed to in order to see her husband succeed.

“I remember living in Fargo, North Dakota and thinking ‘where am I going,’ while driving,” Karen said. “You learn to love the great places that you go, and embrace the culture of each of them. I don’t have any complaints, we’ve been lucky that everything has worked out.”

Karen says she’s never felt completely secure in any city, having learned firsthand the cut-throat nature of coaching. Over time, it has become easier to take things slow, and not get too attached to much of anything.

Despite that, the idea of coming back to Canada rang like a bell in the back of her mind this offseason. On a trip back home in October, she made the trek to Montreal, where she talked about how much fun it would be to live close to family, and see Pat in the CFL once again.

Perhaps that manifestation got the ball rolling, but even as Ottawa started to become a legitimate option, Karen didn’t truly believe it was going to happen. With pen to paper, Karen waits back home in Kansas City while her youngest daughter finishes her final year of university.

Her philosophy says to not plan too far ahead, but Karen can hardly contain her excitement to return home.

“It’s just good timing,” Karen said. “We’re getting older, and our kids are becoming independent, and I’ve joked with Pat that I love living in the States, but I don’t want to die here. I only know Ottawa from childhood memories, but I’m excited. It feels like home for me, which is hard to explain.”

Pat’s last Canadian stint comes with some great memories for Karen. Her father was a big Hamilton Tiger-Cats fan, and shared a special relationship with Pat.

When the Tabbies won the Grey Cup, Pat often allowed Karen’s father to wear his ring, as they celebrated the victory together. She now holds times like that – as well as her father’s favourite Tiger-Cats hat – near and dear to her heart, and now hopes more lasting memories can be created with their children.

As the kids fly the nest, the story of Karen and Pat is one built on many of the principles Pat demands of his players on the field: dedication, teamwork, and effort.

For around 30 years, Pat has had someone to turn to, and Karen has been right there by his side, even when she’s hundreds of kilometres away.

“Since 2000, we’ve had five or six calendar years apart, but that’s a part of this,” Pat said. “It’s going to create strain on relationships, so you need to be close-knit and understand one another’s dreams and desires, and I’m so fortunate she has.”