GLENDALE - The Coyotes recently hired Jay Varady as head coach of their primary affiliate, the Tucson Roadrunners, replacing Mike Van Ryn.
Varady, 40, spent last season as head coach of the Kingston Frontenacs of the Ontario Hockey League and led that junior team to the playoffs. He's eager to tackle a new challenge in the American Hockey League.
"I'm excited and ready to get to work," Varady said. "Mike (Van Ryn) did a great job with the Roadrunners last year. They had a fantastic record and I'm really looking to build off that foundation.
Van Ryn left the Roadrunners to accept an assistant coach position with the St. Louis Blues. Varady is ready to take his place and for life in the AHL, which features lots and lots of player movement.
"Part of development is learning how to win hockey games and learning how to play in situations that deal with call-ups," Varady said. "It's the AHL so of course there's going to be change, of course there's going to be players coming and going. The one theory that just always kind of sticks with me is that all that creates opportunity for somebody else. I think everybody has to be ready for those opportunities when they come."
Tucson notched the highest winning percentage (.662) in the AHL's Western Conference last season and reached the second round of the playoffs, a first for the two-year-old franchise. The Roadrunners lost to the Texas Stars, who came within one victory of winning the Calder Cup.
Varady said he enjoys coaching young hockey players and he looks forward to becoming a key part of Arizona's rebuild. He will be the new guy on the coaching block what with no ties to Coyotes Head Coach Rick Tocchet, Coyotes General Manager John Chayka or Roadrunners General Manager Steve Sullivan, who hired him.
"I supported Steve in the hire so I was part of the interview process when it got down to final interviews," Chayka said. "Jay is a unique hockey mind. He comes from a bit of a different background and has a lot of different experiences that are really intriguing to us. We're excited about the opportunity to learn some things from Jay. He's got some different ideas and different concepts."
Varady is equally excited to share ideas with the Coyotes.
"For me, this is an opportunity to learn from a new group and to see ideas from maybe a little different perspective, although in a lot of our conversations it seemed as though we saw the game very similar. Through the interview process I felt their were a lot of similar ideas between myself and the organization in terms of developing players and also trying to win hockey games in the American Hockey League. I'm looking forward to that process."
Varady first entered coaching as a senior at Union College. He played nearly three seasons for Union before suffering a serious neck injury that ended his playing career as a junior. Not being able to play, Varady, the team captain, served as a volunteer assistant coach in his senior season. It was then he realized he had a passion for coaching.
Varada's coaching resume includes a seven-year stint as an assistant coach with Everett of the WHL and a four-year run as head coach with Sioux City of the USHL. He's also coached in France.
"I think as a coach you always have to keep learning," Varady said. "You've got to reach out, meet people, talk to people and find out why they do things a certain way. That's why I'm really excited about this opportunity because I don't have a ton of connections to the organization so there's going to be a lot of ideas that are exchanged."
Varady said he's spoken with Tocchet about the organization's mind-set and system.
"The Coyotes are a pressure team," Varady said. "They want to play with pace, they want to play fast. That's something that I believe in as a coach and was something that was a common ground for us. We want to make the transition from the Tucson team to Arizona as simple as possible so we're going to be playing the exact same style."
Varady, a St. Louis native, has never spent time in Tucson although his parents now live not too far away in Las Cruces, New Mexico. He said he's looking forward to getting to town and getting familar with the team's surroundings and staff as soon as possible. John Slaney and Steve Potvin will be his assistant coaches.