So long Wall Street, hello Arizona Highways.
That is the transition Doug Sulliman decided to make Thursday when he signed a multi-year contract to join Head Coach Wayne Gretzky’s staff as an assistant coach replacing Rick Tocchet.
“This is an incredible situation for me,” said Sulliman, an 11-year NHL veteran with three years of assistant coaching experience and one year of television broadcasting also on his NHL resume. “This is a very young team that is very talented. And with the coaching staff that’s there already with Wayne, Ulf (Samuelsson) and Grant (Fuhr), for me to be able to come in and support those guys and develop these young men is very exciting for me.”
|Doug Sulliman with the Hartford Whalers |
Sulliman, a first-round draft pick in 1979 who played 631 games for the New York Rangers, Hartford, New Jersey and Philadelphia before retiring in 1990, will work with the Coyotes forwards.
“He’ll be doing a lot of one-on-one work before practices and after practices, and he’ll be doing a lot of video work,” Coyotes General Manager Don Maloney said. “…I’ve known Doug for a long time and he’s one of the most patient, upbeat and positive guys I know, and he has an excellent rapport with young people and gets along with everyone.”
Sulliman, 48, served as an assistant coach with the New Jersey Devils from 1990-93, working under three head coaches: John Cunniff, Tom McVie and Herb Brooks. He said he learned a lot from all three.
“I had the full spectrum of head coaching scenarios,” Sulliman said. “I had Cunniff who had an X’s and O’s approach to the game, I had Tom McVie who was old school and kept things very simple, and I had Herbie who was the great motivator and was always on the cutting edge of where the game was going to go. So, it was very interesting to see how all these different philosophies were trying to get to the same goal, and that was to win the Stanley Cup. I learned a tremendous amount of hockey in those three years.”
|Doug Sulliman with the New York Rangers |
Sulliman spent the past 15 years earning his living away from hockey on Wall Street and in the insurance industry, but the sport never left his blood.
“I always kept locking my love for hockey in the closet because if I let it out, I think I would have missed it too much,” Sulliman said. “I just kept focusing on what I was doing, but in the last year or so I sort of became intrigued by the thought of getting back into it, and then this opportunity came along and I think I surprised everybody when I said, ‘Yeah, I’d like to do this.’ I just missed it. It’s who I am.”
Maloney is confident Sulliman will be able to quickly scrape the rust off his coaching skills.
“At the end of the day, the game is still pretty much the same as it was (15 years ago),” Maloney said. “You have to compete and you have to win your battles. To me, his time away is the least of my concerns. It’s like riding a bicycle.”
|COYOTES NAME DOUG SULLIMAN ASSISTANT COACH: |
|Phoenix Coyotes General Manager Don Maloney announced today that the Coyotes have hired former NHL forward Doug Sulliman as an Assistant Coach for Head Coach Wayne Gretzky’s staff. Read the Press Release |
| Historical Stats. |
Regarding his coaching style, Sulliman said: “My whole approach to coaching, and life, is very positive. I always try to emphasize the positive things, and I think there is an art to preparing for games. The mental preparation to the game is very important, more so than physical preparation….As Herb Brooks used to say, ‘It’s not 82 games, it’s one game 82 times.’”
The Coyotes again will be one of the younger teams in the NHL in 2008-09. Sulliman said that is more than OK by him.
“I enjoy working with young players, and I think these young guys can’t be afraid to make mistakes and you have to reinforce the positive as much as possible and create an environment where they are willing to take chances. They have this God-given talent and you’ve just got to let them go with it. The biggest thing is to be there for them and be supportive when the times are tough and they are squeezing the stick.”
Asked if he was sure he was ready to give up a cozy commute to Manhattan five days a week for the grind of an 82-game hockey season crammed into six-plus months, Sulliman laughed.
“Are you kidding me? This is awesome. I’ve been walking around the past few days and my wife is telling me ‘Sully, I haven’t seen you smile this much in 10 years.’ I know in my heart this job is for me, and it’s exactly where I want to be at this time in my life.”