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Geoff Ward's open-door policy key to collaborative coaching effort

by RYAN DITTRICK @ryandittrick /

Geoff Ward may be new to the position.

But when it comes to leadership, communication, support and discipline, the Flames' interim head coach is certainly no rookie.

In his two-and-a-half decades behind the bench, everything from motivational tactics and dressing-room briefings, to the benign, off-day scheduling, is better served by something of a group effort.

He wants his players to be as much a part of the conversation as anyone.

"We'll talk to them about everything," Ward said as the Flames returned to practice Tuesday. "I think it's important that they know the direction we're potentially moving in, and I think it's important that they know the reasons why we may be moving in that direction.

"As a staff, we're as much accountable to them as they are to us. We want to know from them, for us, as a group, as a team, that these are the right decisions for us."

Collaboration is key.


Video: "I'll ask them a lot of questions"


Ward, along with his coaching group, met with the Flames' leadership group "to straighten a few things out" before practice.

It was the beginning of a weeklong process that will see the coaches meet with the players, individually, to properly reset going forward.

The Flames are focused on going full-steam ahead with a new voice at the top.

But his isn't the only one.

Ward, a former grade-school teacher, is known for his warm, personable approach and direct line of communication.

"I wanted feedback from them on where they felt we were at this point in time," Ward explained. "I wanted to get some feedback on them about our upcoming schedule. We're obviously going to try to empower them as much as possible, to make decisions in areas of our program, where they can, so they can take more ownership of it. I wanted to let them know what they can expect going forward from me and the rest of the staff.

"I'll ask them a lot of questions that aren't even related to hockey. For me, I want to be able to tie into what their interests are away from the rink, what they like to do in their spare time, things like that. Why they like the game, what they see their role being.

"It's an opportunity for them to get to know me better, and for me to get to know them better."

"I like it," said alternate captain Mikael Backlund, who was one of a number of players involved in the early morning fireside chat. "You want to have a good relationship with the coach. Not that we didn't before, but … to perform our best, they need to know how we're feeling, how we're doing and I think that helps having an open conversation."

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