By Don Stewart
READING, Pa. – No matter where he’s played or who he’s coached, Ed Herneisen has never entered a hockey game believing he had no chance.
As for being a coach in the professional ranks, the Gilbertsville, Pa. resident always kept it as a goal in the back of his mind. All he needed was a chance.
He finally got one last month when the Dayton Bombers’ Don MacAdam tabbed Herneisen as his new assistant coach. The 52-year-old will be behind the bench in his native area as the Bombers face the Reading Royals in a 7:05 game on Friday at the Sovereign Center.
“I’m a rookie at 52,” Herneisen said. “I love it. Don’s given me an opportunity.”
MacAdam, who is Dayton’s head coach, general manager and co-owner met Herneisen through forward Matt Herneisen, Ed’s son. When in Reading, the Bombers practice at Reading Skate Center, which Ed co-owns.
MacAdam needed an assistant coach for his struggling team when former Bomber Colin Miller’s availability became limited due to another job. He gave Herneisen a call before Dayton’s Jan. 21 game at Trenton.
“Don just said, ‘Bring a suit tomorrow night, you’re on the bench,’ ” Herneisen said. “I haven’t left. I love it. I’ve coached at various levels, but never the pro level. It’s different. I’m really enjoying it and the team’s playing well.”
The Bombers are 6-7-1 since he joined the staff, which is a significant improvement for a team entrenched in the ECHL North cellar at 18-30-4.
Dayton has moved to within 12 points of Trenton for the fifth and final playoff spot in the division with 20 games to go.
While recent stability at the goaltending position and the development of the team’s abundance of rookies have helped spark the Bombers of late, Herneisen’s presence has also played a significant role.
“Quite a bit,” second-year defenseman Bryan Nathe said. “I’d say 40 percent, at least. Forty or 50 percent. He’s done that much for us.”
“One of the things at this level is that, without an assistant, some things just don’t get done,” MacAdam said. “The big thing with Ed is he does a great job on video. He’s really helped the guys in one-on-one sessions with video, plus the team overall in just pointing out things that otherwise we simply wouldn’t get to.
“To sum it up, he’s really improved our preparation.”
Herneisen, a Pottsgrove grad, coached the Drexel University club team for 10 years before guiding Kutztown last season. He’s also coached at the junior levels, including his son Matt’s Junior Flyers AA squad.
“He’s fiery, so Matt didn’t lick that off the grass,” MacAdam said. “He’s emotional, he’s intense. But at the same time, he’s realistic. He’s a little bit too much like me where we’re not touchy-feely sort of coaches. A lot of guys now, that’s the way they’ve been coached for a long time.
“But at the pro level, the gray disappears and there’s far more black and white. That’s the way I like it and that’s the way Ed does it.”
The gray-haired MacAdam hasn’t dismissed leaving the bench to concentrate on his front-office duties next season, while Herneisen is open about his desire to be a pro head coach.
Don’t be stunned if MacAdam hands him the whistle next season.
“Ed’s certainly very capable of coaching at the ECHL level,” MacAdam said. “Can he get the job done or not? He absolutely can.”
“I just needed an opportunity,” Herneisen said, “and Don MacAdam gave it to me.
“We’ll see what happens.”