Interview with John Torchetti, Atlanta Thrashers Associate Head Coach

Our latest  installment of Five Questions is an interview with the Associate Head Coach of the Atlanta Thrashers, John Torchetti. John just joined the Thrashers for the upcoming 2010-2011, after being the Assistant for three years and winning the Stanley Cup with the Chicago Blackhawks this past season. Torchetti’s coaching resumé includes time in the East Coast Hockey League, Central Hockey League, International Hockey League, the American Hockey League and the National Hockey League. He has twice been named Coach of the Year, first with the CHL’s San Antonio Iguanas in 1994-95, then with the Fort Wayne Komets of the IHL in 1997-98.

Torchetti’s NHL resumé includes time with Tampa Bay (1999-00 to 2000-01), Florida (2002-03 to 2003-04) and Los Angeles (2005-06). He was asked to serve as interim head coach at the conclusion of the 2003-04 while he was an assistant coach for the Florida Panthers, posting a record of 10-12-4-1 in 27 games behind the bench. He was also brought in with 12 games left in the 2005-06 to serve as interim head coach of the Los Angeles Kings posting a record of 5-7-0.

Torchetti’s playing career spanned eight seasons as a left winger in professional hockey in the Atlantic Coast League, ECHL and AHL. Throughout his playing career, he enjoyed seven appearances in the finals while winning four championships.

Here we go……

1. I can’t begin to tell you how many people I overhear saying things like “summers off!” about pro hockey players and coaches in general. Like you guys are school teachers or something! Can you set the record straight about how much work actually gets done in a hockey offseason by a coach and his staff?

Since June 9th we stayed in town and celebrated our championship and then we prepared to go to the draft in L.A, June 24th – June 27th. One of those days was a NHL coaching seminar. Development camp starts for us July 7th – July 14th where we bring in our draft picks and prospects to teach skills and skating. We also teach our players on how to train on and off the ice and the value of nutrition. Myself over the rest of the summer I teach clinics on ice instruction about 2-3 camps.

2. Will you do anything unique with the Stanley Cup when it’s your turn to be its landlord for a couple of days?

Looking forward to having a family gathering, then taking the cup to where I grew up in Boston to a couple local establishments to see some old friends.

3. That said, after winning it this past season, you made the move to Atlanta to join the Thrashers coaching staff. How did you come to that decision? Possible to give a quick explanation about the experience of going from one organization to another from the coach’s perspective (especially when there’s a new coach in place in Atlanta)?

One of the reasons it was easy to make the transition is that Rick Dudley, the GM of Atlanta now, was the assistant GM in Chicago who brought me over to Chicago along with Dale Tallon. Rick was my first coach when I was 19 and I have worked with Rick with the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Florida Panthers as well,  so there is a lot of history between us.  I worked with Craig Ramsey, who is the new head coach of Atlanta, in Tampa Bay so we also have worked together and know each other.

4. You’ve had a couple of interim head coach jobs in the NHL – I’d be interested to hear how you personally approached this? For example, did you feel a lot of pressure to lock down the job full time, or is it actually less pressure (I suppose it depends on the situation you’re in)?

I take the same approach with every job – I go in to win. When taking over teams it’s usually a situation where it hasn’t won, so a new voice in the locker room is a breath of fresh air that helps you get off to a good start. The pressure of the job is always the same, you want to win and you’re expected to win in the NHL.

5. In general, do organizations let interim head coaches know their status right away when they become “interim head coach?” For example, is it usually communicated to them that they’re there to simply finish the season out or that they’re “coaching for a job next year” etc etc?

When you take the job you’re always going in with the idea that you’re going to get a good opportunity of getting the head coaching job if you win and are successful with the team.

6. What was the last thing you laughed really hard at?

When Patrick Kane walked in the locker room with his mullet haircut.

7. Finally, as a gear shop, we have to nerd out on equipment questions. How does today’s NHL/AHL/ECHL player look at equipment vs. the player view back in the 1980s when you played? Are you (or were you) attached to one specific brand of equipment over another? (skates, sticks, mostly)

I think today’s equipment is made to protect the players very well and there is a vast selection to choose from. Back when I played we kept the same shin pads, elbow pads, shoulder pads, and pants for like ten years because we liked our equipment comfortable and didn’t like to change it. Also, when I grew up there were only two skate companies, Bauer and CCM, to choose from.

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