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New Sens coach ready for pressure cooker

by Rob Brodie / Ottawa Senators
Seeing is indeed believing, as far as Craig Hartsburg is concerned.

And what the new Ottawa Senators coached witnessed last fall told him everything he needed to know about the passion for hockey in the nation’s capital.

It was an October evening and Hartsburg was in town with his Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds for a game against the Ottawa 67’s. As part of the trip, he took his team to Scotiabank Place to introduce his players to a National Hockey League environment.

New Senators head coach Craig Hartsburg got an initial taste of the media scrutiny he'll face in Ottawa at a news conference today at Scotiabank Place (Photo by Andre Ringuette/Freestyle Photography/OSHC).
Hartsburg admitted today it was an eye-opener for him, too.

“The atmosphere in the building was electric,” he said after being introduced as the Senators’ new head coach. “That’s what excites me more than anything (about his new job), the passion of the fans I saw here that night.

“We just have to make sure we give them something to be passionate about.”

With that passion comes expectations, a point Senators owner Eugene Melnyk reinforced when he met with Hartsburg on Thursday.

“I made a very, very strong point with Craig about what the expectations are,” said Melnyk. “All I told him was look, all I’m expecting is 150 per cent from you and my hope is that you bring the Stanley Cup to this city.

“So he knows what he’s getting into, very clearly.”

Both Melnyk and Senators general manager Bryan Murray know full well that Hartsburg thrived in a pressure cooker of another kind the last two years, leading Canada to gold-medal triumphs in back-to-back world junior hockey championships. He was also an assistant coach with the victorious 2006 world junior squad.

“At that stage of the world (junior) championships, every game is looked at by the people in this country as being the most important event at that time of the year,” said Murray, who indicated that experience was a key reason Hartsburg was his choice.

Hartsburg understands he’s not in Chicago or Anaheim, his two previous stops as an NHL head coach.

“It’s Canada,” he said. “It doesn’t matter where you coach in Canada, whether it’s the NHL (or junior hockey). The passion and the intensity in a city like Sault Ste. Marie is amazing. Coming here, it’s going to be even bigger.”

Melnyk said he’ll ensure his new coach gets every tool he needs to succeed.

“I told (Hartsburg) it’s very rare that you’re going to get any opportunity where, whatever you ask for, you’re going to get,” he said. “That’s exactly what he’s got to work with, so there’s nothing holding him back from being able to put together a winning team.”

Media conference notes

Murray said Hartsburg reminds him “a little” of Detroit Red Wings bench boss Mike Babcock, the coach he once hired during his time as general manager of the Anaheim Mighty Ducks. “He’s knowledgeable, not afraid to take a stand,” Murray said of Hartsburg. “He talks like Mike as far as accountability and structure. That’s a good comparison, really.” … Murray said he’ll leave it in Hartsburg’s hands to fill out the rest of the Senators’ coaching staff. Assistant coach Greg Carvel, who previously worked with Hartsburg in Anaheim, is likely to be retained. “They know each other quite well and (Carvel) respects Craig a lot and I believe (Hartsburg) is going to keep him,” said Murray ... Hartsburg and his wife, Peggy, have two children: Son Chris, 28, is a coach with the Colorado Eagles (Central Hockey League), while daughter Katie, 26, is a speech pathologist in Sault Ste. Marie, where she's getting married this summer.

Check out out photo gallery from today's news conference.

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