SUNRISE, Fla. -- Tom Rowe relinquished his duties as general manager of the Florida Panthers on Sunday to become interim coach for the rest of this season, but behind the bench is familiar territory.
Rowe, who replaces Gerard Gallant, who was fired on Sunday following a 3-2 loss to the Carolina Hurricanes, has plenty of coaching experience in the American Hockey League and the Kontinental Hockey League, but this will be a first for him in the NHL.
"It's an unbelievable opportunity," said Rowe, who spent less than a year in the Panthers front office, first as associate general manager and then as GM. "We've got great hockey players and I think anybody would be excited about the opportunity. I know what's at stake, I know the money that's been spent on this team.
"I know the commitment from ownership to the front office to the coaches and the players, and my job is totally going to be focused on the coaching and get us to the playoffs and get into the playoffs and have a good run."
Before he was hired as Panthers associate GM in January, Rowe was in his third season as coach of the Panthers' AHL affiliate in San Antonio before it moved to Portland last season.
The Panthers brought Rowe in from Russia, where he was head coach of Yaroslavl Lokomotiv in 2012-13, its return to the KHL following the Sept. 7, 2011 plane crash that killed 36 members of the team and coaching staff.
Rowe spent a decade (2001-11) in the Carolina Hurricanes organization, including four seasons as coach of their AHL affiliate in Lowell (2004-06) and Albany (2006-08) and three seasons (2008-11) as an assistant with the Hurricanes.
The Lynn, Massachusetts, native played 357 NHL games with the Washington Capitals, Hartford Whalers and Detroit Red Wings. He became the first American-born player to score 30 goals in a season when he had 31 with Washington in 1978-79.
Now, he is a head coach in the NHL for the first time.
"I've got to lay out what our plan is and how we're going to do things differently," Rowe said. "The reason the players loved Gerard so much is he treated them with respect, he held them accountable. I'm not too much different than that. I think anybody wants to be treated with respect, and when you treat people with respect you get the respect back. That's what we're going to do as a coaching staff and that's what we plan to do going moving forward."