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New coach hopes to honor McCrimmon's legacy

Wednesday, 08.08.2012 / 4:18 PM / Across the Pond

By Bill Meltzer - NHL.com Correspondent

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New coach hopes to honor McCrimmon's legacy
After three years as an assistant coach for the Carolina Hurricanes, Tom Rowe has taken on the challenge of leading the re-launched Lokomotiv Yaroslavl one year after the tragic plane crash.

One year after the tragic plane crash in Russia that took the lives of 45 people, including all of the players, primary coaching staff and other team personnel for Lokomotiv Yaroslavl, the Kontinental Hockey League team is set to re-launch hockey operations. The team has entrusted 56-year-old Tom Rowe with the task of coaching the club.

Rowe, who served three seasons as an assistant coach with the Carolina Hurricanes (2008-09 to 2010-11) had spent his entire coaching career in the Carolina organization. He worked as a pro scout for the Hurricanes last season and previously spent four seasons as the head coach and general manager of Carolina's AHL affiliate in Lowell and Albany.

Swiss team, NHL Stars pay tribute



Swiss National League team Kloten hosted a tribute exhibition game on Aug. 4 dedicated to the fallen members of Lokomotiv Yaroslavl. The Kloten Flyers played an All-Star Team that included many current and former NHL players. The All-Stars won, 9-6.

Among the notable members of the All-Stars were the likes of reigning Hart Trophy and Art Ross Trophy winner Evgeni Malkin, Ilya Kovalchuk, Pavel Datsyuk, Ilya Bryzgalov, Alexander Semin, Alexander Radulov, Alexei Yashin, Sergei Fedorov and Alex Kovalev.

A crowd of 5,293 turned out to Kloten's Kolping Arena (7,719 capacity) to honor the memory of the Lokomotiv players and coaches who perished in last year's plane crash. The game raised about $82,000 and the organizers split the proceeds evenly between the youth hockey programs for Lokomotiv and Kloten.


-- Bill Meltzer

Never one to shrink away from a challenge, Rowe was something of a trailblazer during his playing career as an NHL right winger. A decade before the term "power forward" came into vogue, Rowe combined a feisty, physical brand of hockey with an ability to collect goals on rebounds and deflections near the net. In 1977-78 as a member of the Washington Capitals, the native of Lynne, Mass., became the first U.S.-born player to score 30-plus goals in an NHL season. That same year, he compiled 137 penalty minutes.

Rowe's reputation as a coach is one of being honest, hard-working and demanding, but also fair and reasonable. If that description sounds similar to ones often used to describe Rowe's Lokomotiv predecessor, Brad McCrimmon, the resemblance is no coincidence. Finding a coach with similar qualities to McCrimmon was one of the publicly stated re-launch goals of Lokomotiv team president Yuri Yakovlev and general manager Yuri Lukin. They looked to the West and hand-picked Rowe as their primary candidate.

"It's a great inspiration," Rowe said. "I knew Brad well, and held him in the highest respect. To be compared to him is an honor."

The hockey world is a small one. Three years older than McCrimmon, Rowe competed against him for several seasons as an NHL player. Later, the two men crossed paths as NHL coaches (Rowe in Carolina, McCrimmon in Detroit), as well as at off-season clinics and numerous other hockey-related events and gatherings over the years.

A long-time NHL defenseman with a wealth of experience as an assistant coach, McCrimmon accepted an offer from Lokomotiv last year to become a head coach at the professional level for the first time. The team was en route to its regular season opening game in Minsk at the time of the Sept. 7, 2011 plane crash in Yaroslavl. The 52-year-old McCrimmon perished along with all of his players and assistant coaches (with the exception of goaltending coach Jorma Valtonen, who was not aboard the plane).

Former NHL general manager Mike Smith recommended Rowe to Lokomotiv management. Smith, who has served as a consultant to Lokomotiv during its rebuilding efforts following the tragedy, noted Rowe's track record in developing young players at the AHL level and also working with veterans as an NHL assistant. Convinced that Rowe had the collection of qualities the team needed for its return to the KHL, team president Yakolev instructed Smith to contact Rowe and, if he was interested in the possibility of coaching in Russia, to set up an interview with senior management.

"I liked the president, I was very comfortable with him and I just thought the interview process that he put me through was incredibly detailed and very thorough," Rowe told the Canadian Press. "The decision was more strictly based on the hockey and going in and getting back to coaching and having a head coaching position in a league like the KHL."

After three years as an assistant coach for the Carolina Hurricanes, Tom Rowe has taken on the challenge of leading the re-launched Lokomotiv Yaroslavl one year after the tragic plane crash. (Photo: Gregg Forwerck/NHLI)

The re-built Lokomotiv team features a lot of youth, including nearly a dozen roster players born in 1990 or later. The team's key veterans include the likes of goaltender Curtis Sanford, defensemen Sami Lepisto, Vitaly Vishnevski, Staffan Kronwall and Evgeny Korolev and forwards Viktor Kozlov, Alexei Kalyuzhny and Mikelis Redlihs. Kozlov will serve as team captain.

Rowe's task in acclimating himself to KHL-style hockey and communicating with Russian-speaking players will be made a little easier by the presence of Dmitry Yushkevich as his assistant coach on the bench. A veteran of 786 NHL games, Yushkevich returned to his homeland to play five additional seasons after concluding his NHL career. He spent the 2010-11 season as the assistant coach of Sibir Novosibirsk and spent most of last season as the team's head coach. Yushkevich also served as an assistant coach for the gold-medal winning Russian team at the 2012 World Championship.

Lokomotiv will officially return to action on Sept. 6, one day ahead of the first anniversary of plane crash. The team's schedule opens with a road game in Novosibirsk.

Sidebar: Swiss team, NHL Stars pay tribute

Swiss National League team Kloten hosted a tribute exhibition game on Aug. 4 dedicated to the fallen members of Lokomotiv Yaroslavl. The Kloten Flyers played an All-Star Team that included many current and former NHL players. The All-Stars won, 9-6.

Among the notable members of the All-Stars were the likes of reigning Hart Trophy and Art Ross Trophy winner Evgeni Malkin, Ilya Kovalchuk, Pavel Datsyuk, Ilya Bryzgalov, Alexander Semin, Alexander Radulov, Alexei Yashin, Sergei Fedorov and Alex Kovalev.

A crowd of 5,293 turned out to Kloten's Kolping Arena (7,719 capacity) to honor the memory of the Lokomotiv players and coaches who perished in last year's plane crash. The game raised about $82,000 and the organizers split the proceeds evenly between the youth hockey programs for Lokomotiv and Kloten.

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