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Meet Don Nachbaur: LA Kings New Assistant Coach

Get to know the 58-year-old NHL veteran that joined the LA Kings coaching staff this summer

by Deborah Lew @by_DeborahLew /

There is a new 'snack' of choice on the Kings' bench this season and it doesn't come in a plastic wrapper.

Don Nachbaur, nicknamed 'Snack,' was appointed an assistant coach on June 22, and will serve under head coach John Stevens alongside goaltender coach Bill Ranford and assistant coaches Dave Lowry and Pierre Turgeon.

Nachbaur, pronounced 'knock-bau-er,' earned his nickname from Dave King, his coach while in Juniors. King, whenever he became angry with Nachbaur, would yell "Snackbar," which eventually caught on with teammates, and overtime, became shortened to 'Snack.'

Forty years later, the nickname still sticks.  

After a 14-year professional career that included over 200 NHL games, Nachbaur retired in 1994 and took a head coaching job in the WHL right away. He's been coaching ever since in the WHL and AHL, where he served as an assistant coach for the Philadelphia Phantoms under Stevens.

Needless to say, Nachbaur is honored to be in the NHL and plans to make the most of his opportunity.

"I'm really excited to be in the NHL, working with great guys on the coaching staff. I see a lot of upsides for our team individually, and collectively as a group, because we think we're talented, we've got a lot of good older players, and we have some really talented young players, so it's finding our niche again," observes the 58-year-old Nachbaur.

Nachbaur and his wife of 30 years, Kim, both hail from British Columbia. They have a 25-year-old daughter, Sydney, who currently works for the Department of Energy in Washington, and their 21-year-old son, Daniel is playing hockey for the University of Massachusetts.

The apple didn't fall far from the tree when Daniel, after getting bit by the hockey bug while watching Dad coach in Philly, decided to follow in Nachbaur's footsteps. Daniel left home at the age of 14 to find a higher level of hockey outside Washington.

"It was a hard start for both the family and my son, but I went through it as a player and I think it builds character," muses Nachbaur. "He's pretty mature for his age and pursuing his dreams, not just hockey, but he wants to be a dentist one day and he has to go to school to do that."

On a rare day off, you might find Nachbaur working in his Playa Vista yard - planting trees, trimming shrubs, that sort of thing - playing golf, hiking, or even laying on the couch watching sports.

He and Kim both enjoy plays and operas - something they developed a taste for while he was playing in Europe - which they are excited to explore in Los Angeles. They are also looking forward to venturing out to the LA beaches, Hollywood, downtown, and most importantly, losing their snow shovel.

When it comes to music, Nachbaur has, believe it or not, allowed his children to control his iPod.

"So you might find a little - what's his name? - Beever?" Nachbaur chuckles at his daughter's taste in music.

There is also a little rap in the mix, courtesy of Daniel, and of course Nachbaur's personal favorite, Classic Rock. The Rolling Stones and Bruce Springsteen were some of Nachbaur's best concerts. As meaningless as music selection may seem in his profession, Nachbaur does find a way to tie it back to coaching.

"The age group never changes, 16-20 years-old in Major-Junior, so just keeping up with those guys, it's what we're listening to on the bus all the time, you're subjected to it, so I really took an interest in the lyrics of a lot of this stuff," Nachbaur shares.

"I try to relate to the players, whether it's through their music - that's who they are, so you have to learn who they are."

Music and hockey also collided for Nachbaur when he coached Liam Stewart, son of legendary musical artist, Rod Stewart, one of the musicians Don loved to listen to in the 70s. Liam played for Nachbaur during their time with the Spokane Chiefs, and while it was always suggested that Liam bring his dad down for a coaches meeting, it hasn't happened yet.

Nachbaur is still waiting for the concert ticket Liam promises he'll one day get.

When asked to name someone inspirational in his life, Nachbaur doesn't hesitate to answer Stanley Cup Champion and Hockey Hall of Famer, Dave Keon, who served as the Captain of the Toronto Maple Leafs for many years. Because of Keon, Nachbaur wrote No. 14 on all of his hockey sticks and wore the number on every minor hockey team he played for.

"I liked Keon because I thought he was a really skilled guy, he was a real leader," acknowledges Nachbaur, who was drafted by the Hartford Whalers in 1979.

Following rookie camp the year after Nachbaur was drafted, he recalls the moment when the rookies were being notified of their new rooming assignments. The rooming list was being read aloud in a ballroom, and the first name called was the Whalers' first round draft choice that year, right winger Ray Allison, who was placed with the best right winger on the team, a man named Gordie Howe.

"The first thing I thought of was 'wow, is that ever good, he gets to room with Gordie Howe,'" recalls Nachbaur.

The second rookie was the Whalers' second pick from that year's draft, a defenseman named Stewart Smith, who was placed with defenseman and team captain, Rick Lee.

"Then they read me, the third rounder, Don Nachbaur. I was a center and they put me with the oldest center and that was Dave Keon," remembers Nachbaur.

While he was nervous walking into the room to meet the man he idolized as a child and would end up spending two years rooming with, he soon realized the nerves were unnecessary, as Keon turned out to be an excellent person that Nachbaur still looks up to and keeps in touch with today.

Keon taught his protégé a lot about the game of hockey, although he never did surrender the number 14.

While the Keon story surely humbled Nachbaur, he's always been the kind of person who puts a lot of weight in virtues like hard work, honesty, integrity and loyalty.

"Anybody that's been on successful teams, are all people that have those traits. Some of my greatest memories, whether it was going to the Calder Cup in the American League or going to the Stanley Cup Finals - unfortunately for me I didn't win the Cup, but I've been to a couple - I think those winning teams have those types of people on their teams," says Nachbaur, who won a Calder Cup with the Hershey Bears in 1988.

As for a Stanley Cup, Nachbaur knows that he has another chance in his new role with the Kings.

"I'm hoping so - we'll work hard for it." 

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