“It's a totally different feeling,” said Heward, who was nursing a lower-body injury and wants to coach one day. “When you're playing, you're just worried about your job and when to get on the ice. But as a coach, you're looking to see which line or pairing is up next, who looks tired, what forecheck the other team is running and then you're trying to correct players' mistakes as well.
“I think coaches must rely a lot on watching video after the fact.”
Heward's daily life is a bit of a juggling act as well. The 37-year-old said he'll wait another four or five weeks to see where he fits in the plans of the parent Tampa Bay Lightning before deciding if he'll jump to Europe to finish the season.
“This might be my last year playing and my last shot to make that kind of money,” Heward said. “I know Tampa wants me as an insurance policy, but we have to see how things play out.”
Heward's wife and two children have joined him in a rented Virginia Beach house and his 5-year old-son was excited by the prospect of playing hockey on the back yard pond. Heward had to explain Virginia winters don't allow bodies of water to freeze over enough for safe skating.
“And then we've got the planes going overhead,” said Heward, whose house sits near Oceana Naval Air Station. “My son loves looking up and seeing them but the noise isn't so good for my afternoon naps.”
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Although Kevin Quick has been a touted Lightning prospect the past couple of years, it's been determined the young defenseman is best off in the ECHL to start this season. The Buffalo native, who last winter left the University of Michigan midway through his freshman year, is playing for the Augusta (Ga.) Lynx and had a goal, four points and eight penalty minutes in his first eight games.
Quick had four assists in 18 Admirals games last season after he left school, but Norfolk coach Darren Rumble said it's best if he slowly builds a solid foundation and isn't rushed into the AHL fray.
“He's not ready for this level, but he will be, either later this season or next season,” said Rumble, himself a former AHL and NHL blueliner. “It's not going to do much for him to play six or seven minutes a game and just try to survive up here.”
Quick, Tampa Bay's third-round pick in the 2006 NHL Entry Draft, will have a chance to skate more than 20 minutes per game in Augusta and see time on specialty teams, Rumble said.
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One of Rumble's endearing characteristics from a media perspective is that he seems incapable of tap-dancing around a tough question. So a query about whether he's feeling heat from Lightning management over Norfolk's early record (1-6-1-2) elicited a trademark straight answer.
“I know they're not happy down there,” Rumble said. “The best way to develop players is in a winning environment and we want to be playing important games down the stretch. But I'm the one who's putting the most pressure on myself. I'm embarrassed with our start.”
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Admirals goaltender Mike McKenna's current mask is left over from last winter, when he played for the AHL's Portland Pirates. So when Portland arrived for two games last weekend, McKenna found himself wearing a lid celebrating the team that was attacking his cage.
“It was embarrassing, but there's nothing I can really do about it,” he said.
McKenna wasn't signed by Norfolk until late in the summer, so his order for an Admirals mask didn't get to the Swedish artist he chose until after many others had been submitted. The Admirals are paying for the mask that's waiting to be painted, so McKenna's on his own if he wants to buy one off the rack in the interim. Pro-level masks can cost as much as $1,400, he said.
“All the helmet artists are slow,” McKenna said. “Especially if you're not an NHL guy.”