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Inside the Lightning: Rick Tocchet

by Staff Writer / Tampa Bay Lightning

In the next edition of Sun Sports’ Inside the Lighting, Bolts fans will learn all about Lightning Head Coach Rick Tocchet.  Hosted by Paul Kennedy, Inside the Lightning: Rick Tocchet premieres on Sun Sports Thursday, October 8 at 10:30 p.m. immediately following the New Jersey Devils at Lightning game telecast.

Tocchet’s first NHL experience came as player in the 80’s and 90’s. He was drafted by the Philadelphia Flyers and made his debut as a 20-year-old during the 1984-85 season. Tocchet rose to prominence in the 1980’s with the Flyers under then coach Mike Keenan. Inside the Lightning chronicles Tocchet’s early years and his growth from a hungry, young and physical player into a goal-scorer and vital cog on two Flyers teams that went all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals under Keenan. Sun Sports talked with Bobby “The Chief” Taylor about Tocchet’s experience in Philadelphia and Keenan’s influence on the rising young star.  

In February of 1992, Tocchet was dealt to Pittsburgh, and during his first season with the Penguins, Tocchet teamed with NHL great Mario Lemieux to win the Stanley Cup. Tocchet had 19 points in 14 playoff games that year under coach Scotty Bowman en route to the Pens’ second straight championship – this one coming against the Chicago Blackhawks and Tocchet’s former mentor, Keenan. Sun Sports talked with Lightning forward Ryan Malone about growing up a Pens fan cheering for the man who would one day become his NHL coach.

Tocchet also takes viewers through the night with the Pens when he gained the ultimate respect of his new team. Tocchet was hit in the face with a deflected shot, but returned to the game, with a broken jaw and blood on his jersey, and ended up scoring two goals to win the game. Lightning broadcaster Chris Dingman also provides his perspective on Tocchet’s broken jaw game, his coaching style and how he garners instant respect from his players.

Tocchet spent the rest of the 90’s as a respected vet, playing with the best centers of that era, including Lemieux, Wayne Gretzky and Adam Oates, and became known as an offensive threat no matter where he played, scoring 440 career goals and tallying 512 assists. After his time in Pittsburgh, Tocchet took roles with the Kings, Bruins, Capitals and Coyotes before finishing his playing career where it started, in Philadelphia. Oates, who is now an assistant with the Lightning, talked about Tocchet’s veteran leadership as a player and how his hard-nosed style helps him now as a head coach of a young team.

Near the end of his career, Tocchet made the decision that he wanted to go into coaching. Tocchet talked with Sun Sports about making the transition from player to coach and the adjustments he had to make to become a successful leader. Inside the Lightning talked with Lightning GM Brian Lawton about the coaches Tocchet played for and how they influenced his own personal coaching style. Tocchet became an assistant coach with the Colorado Avalanche in 2002-03 and came on as an assistant with the Phoenix Coyotes in the summer of 2005.

His first taste of head coaching came in 2005 when he stepped in as the interim coach for Gretzky as Wayne took a leave of absence from the team for five games, and in 2008, Tocchet got his first head coaching gig with the Lightning. Tocchet talked with Sun Sports about his philosophy heading into his first full season behind the bench.

Inside the Lightning also talked with Lightning players including Martin St. Louis, Steven Stamkos, Jeff Halpern and Matt Walker as well as assistant coaches Wes Walz and Rick Wilson about Tocchet’s style as a coach and how he has taken command of the team now that his interim label has been removed.

Inside the Lightning: Rick Tocchet will re-air on Sun Sports on Saturday, October 10 at 6:30 p.m., Tuesday, October 13 at 1:30 p.m., Thursday, October 15 at 10:30 p.m. and throughout the 2009-10 NHL season. Check sunsportstv.com for a full list of airdates and times.

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