GLENDALE – Dave Tippett will join an elite coaching fraternity on Tuesday night when the Coyotes host Los Angeles at Gila River Arena. Once the puck drops, Tippett, who is in his seventh season with the Coyotes, will become just the 24th person to serve as an NHL head coach for 1,000 regular-season games. Click here to purchase tickets.
“I’ve been real fortunate to be around for a long time and I still enjoy doing it,” Tippett said after Monday’s practice. “When you get on the bench it’s the closest thing as you can be to being a player. You’re involved in the game, so that part of it is still a lot of fun for me.”
Tippett played 721 NHL games before retiring from the League in 1994. He served as a player/coach for Houston of the American Hockey League for several seasons, then took a job as an assistant coach for the Los Angeles Kings in 1999-00. He ran the defense for LA, and learned about matchups and coaches’ tendencies, and he also got to know the players around the League. He said it prepared him well to be an NHL head coach.
“That was a great learning experience for me,” Tippett said.
Tippett got his first NHL head coaching job in 2002-03 with the Dallas Stars, a team he led to the Stanley Cup Playoffs five times in six seasons. He then came to the Coyotes just before the start of the 2009-10 season and has quickly made his mark as the team’s winningest coach. Tippett, who has compiled a 241-196-70 record (552 points) and has led the Coyotes to three postseason appearances, is the longest tenured coach in franchise history and his .544 points percentage is the highest of any head coach in team history.
“Dave is a terrific co-worker and I have great respect for his work,” Coyotes General Manager Don Maloney said. “His preparation is second to none. I’ve been around a lot of really good coaches in my career including Al Arbour and Herb Brooks, and ‘Tip’ is certainly on that level with regards to the amount of focus he has in preparing his team and in managing his bench. There’s never been a time where I’ve felt we were unprepared or didn’t have a chance to win, regardless of the personnel. I believe he’s one of the top coaches in the game.”
Tippett played for some iconic coaches who helped shaped him into the coach he is today. He listed Dave King, Terry Simpson, Scotty Bowman and Jack “Tex” Evans among those on Monday when he reflected on how he got to 1,000 games. He also had some teammates – Joel Quenneville, Ron Francis and Kevin Dineen to name a few – who helped in that regard, too.
“I was lucky to play on a team in Hartford where the core group of guys was just hockey guys,” Tippett said. “Our meetings before games, we’d stand at the blackboard, just ourselves, and figure out what we were going to do. I was real fortunate to be around a lot of good teammates like that.”
The NHL game has changed since Tippett took over the Dallas Stars in 2002-03. Younger players have a bigger role and so does technology and social media. He said the days of fielding a big, strong team, grabbing a 1-0 lead and protecting it are long gone.
“The game is faster (and) the skill level in the game continues to rise every year,” Tippett said. “The game continues to evolve so if you don’t evolve with it you’re going to be behind.”
Coyotes players rave about Tippett’s approach to the game and the way he treats them.
“A lot of players want to come here because of ‘Tip,’” defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson said. “I’ve been here for six years with him and I really like the way he is around the dressing room and the players. He respects everybody. It doesn’t matter if you’re 18 or 39, he respects you and treats you the same way as everybody else.”
Defenseman Connor Murphy agrees.
“He’s an amazing coach and a good guy personally,” Murphy said. “You leave conversations with him feeling better, and I think it’s important to have that confidence knowing that your coach is on your side.”
Tippett likes to build things and that’s why he enjoys coaching and is good at it. But, he said, it takes a while to go from playing to coaching, and he advises players nearing the end of their career who are considering coaching as the next step to think about it long and hard.
“When you’re a player, it’s all about what you do and you want to make sure your game is in place to help the team,” Tippett said. “When you’re the coach, you’ve got 23 players. That’s a much bigger task. The hours the coaches put in (and) the commitment to the whole team is just a whole different focus than a player. That being said, that challenge is something that I embrace.”