Casey Cizikas had to do a double-take when he saw the Chicago Blackhawks coaching announcement on Tuesday morning.
He immediately recognized Jeremy Colliton's name, but without a photo, he couldn't be sure his former road roommate with the Bridgeport Sound Tigers was just named the Blackhawks Head Coach.
It's not that Cizikas wasn't happy for the 33-year-old Colliton, but the news was a little unexpected considering they were riding the bus together in the American League six years ago.
"I saw his name and kind of clued in and searched him up and made sure it was the right Colly," Cizikas said. "Good for him, he's worked hard. He started in Sweden, made a name for himself over there, and now he's getting rewarded for it."
Cizikas' first year in Bridgeport (2011-12) was Colliton's last, but by then he'd already left his mark as the franchise's all-time leading scorer (203 points in 326 games). He played 57 games for the Islanders from 2005-11, after being drafted by the organization in 2003. Colliton also played with Matt Martin, Josh Bailey and Brock Nelson during his time with the Isles and Sound Tigers.
"He was my captain in my first year in Bridgeport, my first year pro," Cizikas said. "He was always talking to me, always super nice and you could see where he gets it from, his hockey IQ, the way he gets his message across, guys listen and guys are tuned in."
Cizikas remembered how Colliton looked out for him as he was beginning his pro career and took the blame for him when they both overslept and were late for the bus on the first trip of the year.
"Our first road trip in my first year pro. I'm a young guy and want to make a good impression and do the right things and we were late for the bus," Cizikas said. "We both slept in and he just looked at me and said don't worry about it, I'll tell the coaches it was my fault. Kind of shows what type of guy he is."
Injuries ended Colliton's playing career prematurely in 2013-14, but he transitioned into coaching with the Mora IK in Sweden's Allsvenskan league. In three-plus years in Sweden, Colliton led Mora to a 98-18-57 record before becoming the head coach for Rockford, Chicago's AHL affiliate in 2017-18.
At 33, Colliton is the youngest coach in the NHL, a position Trotz can somewhat relate to of having to be an authority figure over older, established NHLers. The Islanders coach was 36 when he coached his first game for the Nashville Predators in 1998.
"For a number of years I had players in the league who were older than me, so I understand," Trotz said. "Great opportunity, he's got a great franchise and some elite players there."
Trotz also expressed condolences for Quenneville who is second on the NHL's all-time coaching wins list and a friend.
"A tremendous coach and he's done wonders for that city and for Chicago," Trotz said. "Someone I totally respect, but also a friend. He won't be out of work very long. His pedigree, his winning percentage, the Cups, his ability to communicate ,his ability to bring players and championships. He'll be out of work as long as he wants if he's not working already today."
The Islanders and Blackhawks meet on Long Island on Jan. 3 and in Chicago on Jan. 22.