By Mike Mastovich
JOHNSTOWN, Pa. – Former Johnstown Chiefs general manager and coach Toby O’Brien has a new job.
The NHL’s New York Islanders hired O’Brien as a professional scout who will monitor prospects in the AHL and ECHL. O’Brien will continue to reside in Johnstown.
“I am primarily responsible for the American Hockey League and the ECHL,” O’Brien said on Thursday. “I will have other assignment scouting as needed and identified as the season goes along.
“There is a much greater emphasis on pro scouting with the new collective bargaining agreement, free agency happening sooner and signing bonuses.”
O’Brien will report to Islanders Assistant General Manager Ryan Jankowski. The Islanders named former NHL goaltender Garth Snow as general manager during the offseason.
O’Brien was a goaltender on the inaugural 1988 Chiefs team in the former All-American Hockey League. He returned to Johnstown in 1996 as general manager, a position he held for six seasons until he replaced former coach Scott Allen.
In three seasons as coach, O’Brien led the Chiefs to 95 wins and guided the record-breaking 2003-04 team to 45 wins and 97 points.
After the Tampa Bay Lightning joined primary owner Jim Weber’s ownership group in 2005-06, O’Brien moved back into the GM slot. Frank Anzalone became Johnstown’s coach.
This offseason, the Lightning named Ryan Belec as vice president of hockey operations. Belec is responsible for the duties once held by O’Brien, who resigned last month.
“I’m just thankful to the Islanders,” O’Brien said. “When I left the Chiefs, it was late. To be able to get something in pro hockey that late in the year, I was extremely fortunate. It’s a great opportunity and a great way to get started with an organization that is on the rise.”
O’Brien remains loyal to the small-town team where he spent 10 seasons with through good and bad times.
“Once a Chief, always a Chief,” he said. “I was treated exceptionally well by the Chiefs and Tampa. Everyone’s goal no matter what they do in life is to get to the highest level they can. To have your first full-time National Hockey League job is really exciting.”