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Payne has proven his loyalty to Braves over the years.

Jonathon Brodie – Recorder & Times

Assistant coach Devin Payne has been loyal to the Brockville Braves.

The 34-year-old is going into his fifth season with the Braves. He started out in a scouting and video coach role before working his way to the bench after one season.

There have been plenty of times in the half-decade where Payne could have walked away from the team and nobody would have blamed him.

Payne stayed when his friends – general manager Adam Gibson, head coach Matt Ward, and assistant coach Kyle Atkins – all left the club in the 2015-16 off-season.

On the surface, frustrations looked to be mounting during the 2016-17 season when co-owner Dustin Traylen inserted himself to the coaching staff amidst a somewhat failing season. His addition made for a crowded bench and pushed Payne off of it, forcing him to watch games from the stands for a brief time. Still, Payne returned the following year.

This year, though, Payne is taking a step back from the team and for people who have seen him grow within the organization it’s probably comforting to know he’s reducing his role for a more positive reason instead of all the negative reasons he could have left.

Payne said he sits back and does some self-reflection at the end of every off-season to see where he is in his life and where the Braves fit in it. In the last couple of years he’s gotten married and in May he welcomed his first child Oliver.

The combination was enough for Payne to want a change, although he won’t be leaving the team completely. The way he describes his new role is he’ll be doing “lightduty” as an assistant coach. He’ll definitely be there for home games, Payne said, but “I don’t know if I’ll be able to get the pass for a 7 p.m. game in Pembroke.”

“I’m married now, so it’s a con-versation I always have to have with my wife and make sure that time commitment is going to work for our family,” said Payne, who is dean of students/athletic coordinator at Fulford Academy. “This year was probably the closest year to where I wasn’t going to come back and not for anything to do with hockey, more just a personal choice of having a family.”

Braves head coach Jesse Winchester, who has two young daughters of his own, said he understands the importance of family and respected Payne’s decision to take a step back. The coach, however, wasn’t going to let Payne go without giving him somewhat of a sales pitch to stick around.

“I did say that I didn’t want to lose him, so if he could help in any way possible,” said Winchester.

Last season it appeared Payne was finally getting rewarded for his patience after all the ups and downs over the years. With the way the Braves players clicked on the ice, it’s equally true for how well Winchester and Payne connected. The pair talked just about every single day during the season. This off-season they’ve been messaging each other about every other day, said Payne, whether it’s to talk about hockey or anything else.

Both coach and assistant coach are easy-going. Both are detail oriented and open to ideas. Simply put, the pair compliment each other, said Winchester.

Payne, though, doesn’t look at last season – a year where the Braves were a win away from making it to the final – as a big payday after a few years of being on a bit of a roller-coaster at times.

He talks about the Braves like he’s always been compensated with the way he’s gotten a chance to help and watch players, and in some cases friends, develop as players and men. Payne directly pointed to former captain Andrew Jarvis, who was with the team when Payne signed on and then graduated from the ranks this past season.

“Watching him grow from a 17-year-old to a 20-year-old, that’s always been the thing that’s kept me around,” said Payne. “I’m pretty loyal to the kids. They put in the time and effort we ask of them, so…” Payne’s hard work on the bench is just part of the job that fans have always seen. Winchester described Payne as the, “backbone of the team,” because of all the work he did behind the scenes. He did the day-to-day stuff like paperwork, line-up sheets, prepping the bus, breaking down video, etc.

“We’re very fortunate to have him,” said Winchester. “He’s with us because he took on probably a bigger load than he probably thought he would.”

It never stopped Payne from coming back in past years.

Original story at Recorder.ca