TAMPA, Fla. – Interim coach Rick Tocchet had players breathing hard during his first practice Saturday, looking to install high-tempo play for the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Tocchet’s coaching style will include lessons learned from the coaches he played and worked for, such as Scotty Bowman, Mike Keenan, Wayne Gretzky and Jim Schoenfeld. It also will reflect his own hard-nose playing days.
“Paul Coffey left me a message. ‘Make sure you do what you believe in. Don’t compromise,”‘ Tocchet said. “I’m pretty easy-going guy, a fair guy, but I believe in a certain way to play.”
Tocchet takes over a team that is 5-7-4, selected interim coach when Barry Melrose was fired on Friday.
Tocchet’s coaching debut will be Sunday at Carolina, and the 45-minute practice session left more than one player gasping for air.
“The tempo is going to be driven harder,” Tocchet said. “We have to increase the energy level in some players. We’ve got to start getting these guys cranking on the ice, playing a high-tempo game.”
Tampa Bay goalie Olaf Kolzig has gone through coaching changes. He played for Washington last year when Bruce Boudreau took over the struggling Capitals on an interim basis early in the season and led them to the Southeast Division title.
“I think the guys are really going to respond well to Toc,” Kolzig said. “A straight-forward guy. A lot of structure. The year I played with Toc, he was a competitor. I think you’re going to see the same thing in his coaching style.”
Tocchet played 18 seasons with Philadelphia, Pittsburgh, Los Angeles, Boston, Washington and Phoenix.
While an assistant coach for the Coyotes, Tocchet was suspended for three months from the NHL in 2007 because of his involvement in a sports betting ring. Tocchet, who became an assistant coach for the Lightning in July, got calls of congratulations on his cell phone after practice.
“It’s been happened all day,” Tocchet said. “A lot of people around the league. That part is great, but I’m confident in my ability.”