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"Fans Don't Come To See Coaches"-AV Returns to Vancouver

by Jim Cerny / New York Rangers

Alain Vigneault was standing in the press conference area of Rogers Arena in Vancouver on Thursday morning, something he had done countless times during his seven seasons as head coach of the Canucks. But this time there was a Rangers banner behind him, not a Canucks one. And Vigneault was answering questions as head coach of the New York Rangers, not as head coach of the Vancouver Canucks.

And Vigneault admitted Thursday that it all was a bit "strange".

Just four months after being dismised by the Canucks and subsequently hired by the Rangers, Vigneault was back in the old stomping grounds for a pre-season tilt between the Rangers and Canucks.

"Strange could be a word I could use right now," Vigneault told reporters. "I come in here this morning, saying Hi to the staff that worked with me for a long time, it was a little special. It was unfortunate that I didn't get to say goodbye the right way, but now I've been able to talk to almost everyone that I worked with, and thank them for all they had done. But now you have to turn the page and move on. Maybe getting this out of the way right now in an exhibition was a good thing for me."

Vigneault said he caught up with some friends during Wednesday's day off, though in the evening he took his Rangers coaching staff out to dinner at one of his favorite Vancouver restaurants.

When asked how he thinks he'll be received by the Canucks fans Thursday night, Vigneault downplayed his return to Vancouver.

"Fans don't come to see coaches, they come to see players because the players are the ones that put on a show on the ice," explained Vigneault. "I don't expect anyone to come here tonight to see me. They're coming to see great players on two teams that are trying to get ready for the regular season."

Vigneault was asked about his legacy in Vancouver---one filled with tremendous on-ice success---but he chose to discuss something more personal than wins and losses.

"On a more personal level, to see where those guys (players) are as human beings and parents and responsible adults, that's probably the thing I cherish the most," Vigneault said of his core veteran players in Vancouver.

While Vigneault's return to Vancouver certainly was the bigger story Thursday morning, not to be lost in the shuffle was the fact that John Tortorella would be coaching against his former club, as well, after switching head coaching jobs with Vigneault four months.

Tortorella said, "I wish them the best", referring to the Blueshirts, and also stated that Vigneault had done a terrific job as head coach in Vancouver.

"I know Alain did a helluva' job here," stated Tortorella. "This was a very successful team. He's a very good coach and was very successful here. There were a lot of good things when I came here. We both change teams, he's going to do something different there, and I'll try and teach my philosophies (in Vancouver)."

After their respective press conferences Thursday morning, each coach made sure to shake hands and exchnage well wishes with the beat reporters from their previous cities--Vigneault and Vancouver, Tortorella and New York. Then it was time to get back to work with their new teams, both men looking ahead after a bit of reflection Thursday morning.

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