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Bylsma's Involvement with USA Hockey Continues to Grow

by Michelle Crechiolo / Pittsburgh Penguins

Penguins head coach Dan Bylsma played pro hockey for 12 years, and six years into his career he knew he wanted to eventually become a coach.

During that time, he meticulously noted his experiences with his own coaches, amassing journals, books and drills that described what worked and what didn’t, what he liked and didn’t like and how to act in certain situations.

Dan Bylsma

Those writings became useful as he transitioned to manning the bench after retiring, where he began as an assistant with the Cincinnati Mighty Ducks of the American Hockey League (AHL) in 2004-05 and worked his way to head coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins, with who he won the 2011 Jack Adams Award as the NHL’s most outstanding coach.

But while Bylsma worked hard to make the most of his experiences, it was also essential for his growth and development to learn from other coaches in the business – and still is. And this week, he’ll be paying it forward with coaches across the country at USA Hockey’s National Hockey Coaches Symposium in Washington, D.C.

“I think it’s critical for coaches to help coaches,” Bylsma said. “There’s not a school for coaching. There’s not really a classroom you can go to. So there’s a huge amount of information and a huge amount of stuff to learn as a coach, and that really comes from other coaches and other experiences.

“I know you can put yourself through self-teaching in different aspects of coaching and hockey, but being able to talk to other coaches and be in conversation with them and have them go through their experiences of the game are huge aspects to learning.”

Bylsma will be joined by Wilkes-Barre/Scranton head coach John Hynes and some of the most experienced coaches and administrators in hockey at the marquee event, which runs Aug. 23-26.

USA Hockey certifies coaches from Levels 1-5, and those in attendance at this year’s symposium will have a chance to learn from some of the best in the business.

Other speakers include Maple Leafs general manager Brian Burke (also GM of the 2010 U.S. men’s Olympic ice hockey team), Capitals GM George McPhee, Flyers head coach Peter Laviolette, Panthers head coach Kevin Dineen and Avalanche head coach Joe Sacco.

“One of the unique things, I think, about the coaching world is that other coaches are willing to be in communication together even though we may find ourselves on the other side of the line in competition at times,” Bylsma smiled. “It’s an interesting thing. There will be other coaches there talking, and when you see them in the room, you shudder a little bit. But it’s part of the learning process and that’s still part of the learning process for me as a coach.”

Bylsma and the rest of the Penguins coaching staff do homework projects, put together presentations for each other and just constantly keep trying to learn and gather information in an effort to get better and add to what they do.

This symposium will be part of that ongoing process for Bylsma, as he’ll be presenting to the group about developing defense.

“That was something I did before I became a coach,” Bylsma said. “I wasn’t a defenseman but I knew I was going to be coaching defensemen, so I tried to educate myself over a couple years on what it means to play the position, what the skills of the position are and being able to practice and develop that with players and a team. That’s what I’m presenting for this coach’s symposium. Really, I’ve been educating myself again in terms of teaching it. That’s what I’ll be doing in front of the group.”

Bylsma’s involvement with USA Hockey on the coaching side continues to grow, as he was an assistant coach at last year’s USA Hockey National Junior Development Camp, observed Team USA at this year’s World Championship and will now be helping other coaches with their development this week in D.C.

The Michigan native is appreciative and incredibly proud for any opportunity to represent his country, and hopes to someday do so at the Winter Olympic Games.

“Unfortunately in my playing career, I never was able to wear the red, white and blue,” he said. “As I got into the coaching side of it, I certainly have aspirations to wear the red, white and blue be it as a coach, be it with involved with the national teams at all levels. That’s been a real excitement for me, being involved.”

That pride was fueled even hotter by the excitement of watching Team USA compete in the Summer Olympics.

“Being a part of a national team and competing for your country was something I kind of tasted with the Summer Olympics this year while watching it,” he said, jokingly adding, “I think I tried to wear my USA stuff every day of the Summer Olympics when I was on vacation. I wore a lot of red, white and blue just watching this summer.”

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