Q: After all your time in the NHL, what made this job attractive to you?
“Well, I got a call from Paul Holmgren before the draft. We made a commitment over the phone to do this. There wasn’t a lot of stuff coming in from the NHL teams after I got fired in LA. The phone rings for about four or five days and then it goes silent, and there was nothing up until Homer called me. I took some time to think about it, and I was thinking back over some of the coaches that I’ve played for, and I remember seeing Pat Quinn coach the Canadian world juniors in Ottawa a few years ago. He’s a coach that I have a great deal of respect for. He took a step back and coached junior hockey and did a tremendous job. He got himself back in the NHL, he ended up in Edmonton after that. He’s a guy who loves to coach, and that’s what I am. I’m a hockey coach, I love to coach. When Paul presented it to me, in the way that he did – coming back to the Flyers in particular was very exciting, and I feel like it’s a great opportunity to work with young players and again, it’s just a wonderful challenge and I’m looking forward to it.
Q: Have you had a chance to look at the roster or learn anything about the team?
“No, I haven’t looked at any rosters at all. I don’t know any of the names. Coaches get moved around sometimes, everybody wants to make the playoffs and there’s reasons why it doesn’t happen sometimes, with injuries or whatever it might be. Call-ups have an effect on an American league team, there’s no question about that. You’re always losing your best players. I feel very good about it, I’m really excited about the challenge, and the Flyers I know are going to, it always seemed to me anyway, to put good players in their minor league system. Many years I go back with watching the Phantoms when I was coaching or the assistant coach of the Flyers, and they were always a very competitive team with a lot of prospects. It’s up to the coaching from there to do their job too. You’ve got to take these kids and bring them together to a team as quickly as possible, and help them get to the National Hockey League as players. That’s the thing I feel I can do a good job with. I feel I build good teams and get the right attitude and right chemistry together, and let them go play the game.”
Q: Is there an adjustment coming to the AHL level?
“I don’t think there’s a lot of difference there, quite honestly. Just the last team that I coached in LA, going back four years ago, that was a team that was very very young. The youngest team in the NHL… a lot of guys coming in their first year of pro hockey. There’s guys that I coached that put the Stanley Cup over their head this year that had their first goal, their first save, their first pass, their first hit in the NHL, and some guys had their first time in pro hockey. I’ve been through it. I’ve been through it with many teams and young players, and I don’t think the approach changes at all with players in the American Hockey League. I’ve been to the American Hockey League myself and I coached in Baltimore, Washington’s farm team. It’s a process, attention to the detail and helping these young guys come out and play instinctively and play the game the right way, and build up as a team.”
Q: Do you have any ties to Adirondack?
“Adirondack came I believe from Kansas City maybe in 1979? I was playing with the Maine Mariners at that time, that was the Flyers farm team. So I remember when the team came into the league. I do remember going to Adirondack and playing as a player, but I have no other ties to the area and no other ties to any teams that have been through there. Bryan was the GM of Adirondack, Barry Melrose was the coach, and I know they had a nice run together. I’m looking forward to doing the same thing with Paul Holmgen – have a good run, get deep into the playoffs and have great success with the young players.”
Q: What are your thoughts from coming from a major NHL market like LA to coming to one of the smaller AHL markets?
“It’s a hockey team. You’re trying to put together a team that’s going to win. You want to make the playoffs, you want to win the championship. That doesn’t change from a major market out in LA, from Philadelphia, to Adirondack. Once you get in the building, you get in your office, you turn on the video machine, you’re reviewing the game on tape, you’re preparing for your meetings, you’re getting on the ice. The ice is 200 x 85. It’s the same as it is in any NHL rink. That’s your focus. That’s the way it is, and that’s the focus that has to be brought every day, you’re getting ready to win the game tonight, and if you move through that game you want to get ready for the next game. And that does not change, whether you have a veteran hockey club that’s got players that have been in the NHL for 15 years, or you have a bunch of young players in the AHL. The purpose is the same. You want to become a team as fast as possible, you want to have success, you want to win, you want to make the playoffs. That’s what I’m looking forward to. That’s the challenge that’s exciting for a coach, and I’m really excited to get to Adirondack to meet the people up there and see what the facility is, and I hope to do that fairly soon here in the month of July.”
Q: Were you surprised to come back to the Flyers again?
“I was surprised. When Paul and I first talked about this by phone and he threw it out there, I said wow, this is really catching me off guard. It’s something I had not thought about. But at the end of the day, I’m very appreciative of the opportunity. The Flyers are a great organization. I was there as a player, as a head coach, assistant coach, I’ve got a lot of friends that are still in the organization. Paul and I played together, Bobby Clarke and I played together. It’s a team that wants to win. They want to do things right every year. That’s what a coach wants. You want to be able to win, and you want to have the ability to win through stuff that the team can give you. Players, they want to give your team the right place to stay on the road, the right way of travel, the right way of doing things. It’s all about doing things the proper way, and the Flyers have always, from the time that I first went to the Flyers in my first training camp which I think was back in 1975, right through till today – they do things right, and that’s always a very intriguing and very exciting team to work for.”
Q: Have you talked about assistant coaches?
“There’s no one new in the mix. Paul and I did briefly touch on that and we have not talked about it more than briefly so I do need to just firm everything up there, but nothing will change on the assistant’s side of it as of I’m speaking to you right now. Kjell [Samuelsson] and I have a great relationship, we worked together with the Flyers. Riley [Cote]’s I know a very competitive guy and he’s done a great job over the past couple of years. I don’t anticipate anything changing with that.”
Q: How do you see Ian Laperriere fitting in with his new role?
“He’s a player I have a great deal of respect for, going back to my time of coaching and scouting in the league and being an assistant coach. He’s one of the most competitive players that you could possibly face in any given night, and I have a lot of respect for the kind of game that he showed game-in and game-out. I know that he’s very intense, he’s going to work very hard, he has a great deal of experience in the game, and he’s going to do a tremendous job with his developmental role with these young players. I would assume that he and I would have a pretty good relationship that we’re going to develop over this coming year, with phone calls and him coming to Adirondack to watch and be a part of it. I welcome his opinion. I have a lot of respect for his opinion, how he played and what he saw as a pro, and we’ll work together very, very well to get this accelerated and get these young players into the National Hockey League.”