VANCOUVER – April 17, 2006 was the last time John Torchetti stood behind an NHL bench in an interim head-coaching role.
His Los Angeles Kings defeated the San Jose Sharks, 4-0. It was the end of a 12-game spell in which he was the bench boss for Los Angeles.
Nearly a decade later, Torchetti will walk out of the tunnel on Monday night at Rogers Arena, again a head coach, exactly the position he's always wanted to find himself back in.
"I love the NHL, and I always wanted to be a head coach," Torchetti said on Monday, hours away from his first game as the Wild's interim head coach. "That's why I went back to the American (Hockey) League.
"I could have stayed as an assistant coach, and I love being an assistant coach, but I love teaching the game from start-to-finish for the players."
His latest pupils aren’t exactly unfamiliar: 10 players expected in the Wild's lineup on Monday have called Torchetti their head coach at one point or another. Two of them in Mike Reilly and Christian Folin have done so this season in Iowa.
"A few guys have kind of came up to me and asked, 'How did you like him? What's he like?'" Reilly said. "I only have positive things to say about him. He wants to get the best out of guys for sure, and he wants to win so badly."
Torchetti has spent the past day-plus since he joined the Wild in Minnesota prior to departing for a three-game road trip meeting with each player individually.
"It puts everybody at ease, and I go over what I expect them to do moving forward, or what hasn't been working for them before, or if there's something else that we can fix for them," Torchetti said. "It's all about making us better, and making guys better, and the quicker we get everybody's game back on track, the quicker we become a winning team."
On Sunday Torchetti said he wasn't thinking about what it would take to remove his interim tag, with his only focus on helping to right the Wild's ship.
The first step was introducing himself to players, and beginning to evaluate the changes he can implement to improve the product.
"(On) the flight, at the rink, and on the plane, and I was out like a light by 9:30," Torchetti said. " It's a new beginning, and everyone has a clean slate, and just talking about the little intangibles of the game we need to keep improving on as a group, and it's all about the team, and how hard we're going to push each other moving forward."
The details themselves aren't as clear-cut. Torchetti is still in the information-gathering process, gleaning what he can from the Wild's assistant coaches and conversations with players.
On Sunday, he said the Wild needs to have an aggressive offensive mentality in both shooting the puck and attacking the net.
"(The meeting) was basically just to introduce myself, and … to tell me his coaching philosophy," Thomas Vanek said. "His biggest message is that we're going to play a fast game to start to create some offense, and see where it goes from there."
In some respects, at this stage, Torchetti is a student, studying and finding the answers that the Wild has been looking for over the past seven weeks.
But it's his passion that led him back to where he finds himself right now.
"That's why I went back to the American League," Torchetti said. "It's always been my dream to get back. I love teaching; that's the bottom line."