Jamie Kompon, who earned a 2012 Stanley Cup ring as a member of the Los Angeles Kings’ staff, recently joined the Blackhawks as an assistant coach to Joel Quenneville. They go back several years, as Kompon explained during an interview with chicagoblackhawks.com.
How did you and Coach Q become acquainted?
A gentleman named Paul Fixter was video coach with the Colorado Avalanche when they won the Cup in 1996 with Joel as an assistant. After Joel got his first NHL head coaching job with the St. Louis Blues, Paul heard that Joel was looking for a video coach. Joel contacted me, and hired me in 1997.
Obviously, you were very experienced as a video coach, right?
Not really. Joel asked me what I knew about being a video coach and I told him the truth: absolutely nothing. But I had a background in coaching and teaching. Besides, I had a great teacher in St. Louis, Roger Neilson. He was an assistant, as he was before with the Blackhawks, and ahead of the curve. He started using video before anybody. Now everybody uses it. Roger was brilliant, a real innovator.
You spent nine years with the Blues, which explains why you plan to take the Cup to St. Louis.
Yes, I was born in Thunder Bay, Ontario, but my parents no longer live there. When I arrived in St. Louis, I didn’t know a soul. When I left in 2006 for Los Angeles, there was a goodbye party for me and 200 people showed up. I didn’t think I had that many friends, but everybody who walked through the door, I knew. So, yes, I have a warm spot for St. Louis and that will be where I have my Stanley Cup day on Aug. 6.
What impressed you about Coach Q?
Even though St. Louis was his first head job in the NHL, Joel coached the way he played, very smart. He has a photographic memory. He sees things on the ice, everything. That’s why I believe he is so good at making adjustments not only from game to game or period to period, but on the spot. It’s a tremendous gift.
You became more than just a video coach, correct?
I did. I became an assistant, then I worked in strength and conditioning. After Joel left St. Louis in 2004, I stayed on under Mike Kitchen, who became head coach there and of course is now an assistant here in Chicago. We all stayed in touch, and now, 15 years after we started together, hopefully I can bring something as a pupil to two men who taught me so much about how to coach, how to carry yourself, how to be a professional.
What do you consider to be your attributes?
I would like to think of myself as a teacher. Before I went into hockey full-time, I taught high school mathematics and coached hockey at McGill University in Montreal, a terrific institution that is often referred to as the “Harvard of Canada.” I never really made it as a player, but I had a few coaching stints and I learned along the way from some really bright people.
When Joel hired you with the Blackhawks, it was written and said that Coach Q is bringing in another of his “buddies.” But that isn’t exactly a news bulletin in sports, is it?
I don’t think so. It’s not only a question of friendship, but trust and comfort level. You want people you know you can work with. My contract was up in Los Angeles. We won the Cup, but I was not renewed and for many of the same reasons. Darryl Sutter, whom Blackhawk fans know well, was the head coach. His work ethic is second to none. He did a tremendous job. But he wanted to have his own people around him. That is part of the sports business, and when Joel called to say there was an opening in Chicago, I was ecstatic.
By all accounts, you have been “assigned” to oversee the power play. Is that accurate?
In a sense. I will deliver the message that Joel and Mike and I have for the players. But the notion that I will be sent off alone to an island and coach only the power play is not true. As an assistant, especially under Joel, you want your head to be on a swivel. See everything, take it in. The coaching staff is a team just like the players are a team. We all have input.
What is your power play philosophy?
In Los Angeles, when Terry Murray was coaching before Darryl, we had this study that showed 78 percent of power play goals are generated from the point, pounding the puck on net. The power play is like any other aspect of hockey. You have to have the parts, but you have to execute too. Those pretty passing plays that result in highlight power play goals you see replayed on SportsCenter and TSN are nice to watch, but how many of them are there? I believe the puck has to get to the net, and when you have success, it is contagious. It lifts the team at even strength, and it keeps the other team on eggshells. If you produce on the power play, the opposition is more careful about taking penalties.
Is it difficult leaving a Stanley Cup champion?
I had a wonderful time in Los Angeles, and what we did this spring really did wonders for the sport out there. Dean Lombardi, the Kings’ general manager, went through some tough times while building from within, which is similar to what the Blackhawks did toward their Stanley Cup. My wife, Tina, and I celebrated our 13th wedding anniversary the day we won it all, June 11. I came home that night and there were purple, black and white streamers on our house. I didn’t even realize our neighbors knew what I did for a living, but it was a terrific run.
As an opponent, what were your impressions of the Blackhawks?
Obviously, there is a special tradition with an Original Six franchise in Chicago, plus a very talented group of players and a fantastic fan base. When we came to the United Center with the Kings, there was tremendous energy in that building. I got goosebumps listening to the National Anthem and I think visiting teams can almost get too pumped up. We had to fight for every inch there, because that’s Joel’s philosophy on defending home ice. He believes that if a team comes in there and wins, it has to steal two points.
What about Southern California versus Chicago winters?
My wife is from Edmonton, so she’s talking about taking out all the winter coats she had but didn’t use in Los Angeles. Our dog, Apollo, likes green grass and the outdoors but also loves snow. Apollo saw snow in St. Louis. I feel this is a wonderful opportunity to be in a great hockey city with a quality roster and a tremendous staff. A lot of experts thought the Kings were far away from winning it all, and look what happened. The Blackhawks aren’t far away from being where they were in 2010. We had a nice parade in Los Angeles, but I saw clips of the one you had in Chicago. I’d love to be part of another one of those.