By Brian Compton
No matter how well he succeeds behind the bench, Rick Kowalsky will always be a hockey player first. The way he played the game was an inspiration to anyone who played with him, anyone who coached him, anyone who had the pleasure of covering him from a press box.
While it’s unfortunate that Kowalsky’s playing career came to an end in 2005, it wasn’t difficult to see that his days at the rink were far from over. Heck, Kowalsky’s new career may take him to heights he never reached with the skates on.
That would be his head coaching career, one that got under way on May 8 of this year when he was named the eighth head coach in Trenton Titans history. Kowalsky was only 11 months removed from delivering New Jersey’s capital city its first Kelly Cup championship.
While the Titans went south in the standings in 2005-06, Kowalsky hung up the blades to become assistant coach of the Norfolk Admirals in the American Hockey League. Norfolk, which is affiliated with the Chicago Blackhawks, had a new head coach of its own in Mike Haviland, who was behind the bench for Kowalsky’s only championship in a 12-year professional career.
And after Kowalsky helped Haviland’s Admirals set franchise records for wins (43) and points (94), the Titans called for Kowalsky’s services. Four months after Kowalsky accepted the position, he found out he was going to have new bosses. The New Jersey Devils purchased 80 percent of the membership from the Berman family in September and quickly provided Kowalsky with additional quality players to join the solid roster Kowalsky put together over the summer.