Looking to bring enthusiasm to the bench, Coyotes Head Coach Wayne Gretzky made an extraordinary coaching maneuver Thursday night against the Pittsburgh Penguins.
During the second intermission of Phoenix's 4-1 victory at Jobing.com Arena, Gretzky decided to move Assistant Coach Doug Sulliman from his normal perch in the press box down to ice level.
“Going into the third period tonight, I just thought we needed another guy there with a little bit of energy,” Gretzky said. “I knew it would energize the players. It was something I was thinking about for the last couple games.”
Sulliman, who is in his first season with the Coyotes, liked the switch.
“What I was trying to bring was positive energy, reinforcing the good things they were doing,” Sulliman said. "Ulf (Samuelsson) and Wayne (Gretzky) are so wrapped up in the big picture, that it's just subtle things I can reinforce when the players come back to the bench.”
It was the first time Sulliman has been behind an NHL bench since 1993 when he was an assistant coach for the New Jersey Devils.
“It was kind of cool because they were all surprised to see me behind the bench,” Sulliman said. “They were all laughing at me a little bit.”
Asked to mention differences since his last stint behind the bench 15 years ago, Sulliman was quick to mention a couple of things.
“The players are bigger and faster,” Sulliman said. “The pace was amazing and everything happens so quickly.”
As an “eye in the sky” for Phoenix, being behind the bench was a different experience for Sulliman.
"It was eye-opening because you forget about the pace of the game,” Sulliman said. “When you are up in the press box, everything is controlled. The first thing you notice is how hard and how fast these players are going.”
Gretzky said the move was not a one-time experiment and that Sulliman likely would be behind the bench again soon.