By Gavin Fletcher
© Times Colonist (Victoria) 2005
VICTORIA, British Columbia – Welcome to Victoria, Troy Ward.
Now, who the heck are you?
Ward, who was trotted out before the media at a press conference Tuesday, takes over the coaching reigns of the Victoria Salmon Kings and has no problem stepping into former coach Bryan’s Maxwell shadow.
While Maxwell’s win-loss check book was withdrawn on the win side, he had a million-dollar personality that gave the Salmon Kings an identity that Ward will be better off not trying to match.
For the record, he won’t.
“I think we are two guys who have two different ways about us,” Ward says. “He had his place in the organization and he did a wonderful job.”
Coming in on the heels of Maxwell is eerily similar to a coaching job Ward took in 2000-’01, when he followed another vocal, character coach, Bruce Cassidy, into a job with the ECHL’s Trenton Titans. It wasn’t a mid-season coaching change but, like the Salmon Kings, the Titans were a second-year ECHL team.
Current ECHL commissioner Brian McKenna was the general manager who hired Ward in New Jersey.
“He was a great fit for us. Bruce [Cassidy] was a little more old-school, less into the details than Troy.”
Those details, says McKenna, translated into a a 50-18-4-regular season record, a Kelly Cup appearance and a coach-of-the-year award for Ward.
Then he was gone. The following year, Ward was installed as the senior vice-president of hockey operations in the ECHL.
Today, Ward’s attention to details translates into a job leading the Salmon Kings. They are why Salmon Kings director of player personnel, and now GM, Dan Belisle, brought Ward to Victoria.
“He has an amazing ability to teach the game,” Belisle says.
That’s a statement few, if any, of Ward’s former players would disagree with.
Current Titans captain Vince Williams remembers when Ward — “we used to call him the Warden,” Williams says — arrived in Trenton. The players were jolted by the Warden’s approach.
“The demand for details was not only on the ice, but off the ice too. What he brought to the table was the team concept and a lot of details were included in that,” says Williams.
“But the players bought into it when they saw how successful we could be. Of course, with Troy you’re either on board or you’re not. And if you’re not, you’re not going to be there.”
Team USA junior coach Walt Kyle has seen Ward’s style at work and he’s impressed. Kyle has run up against Ward on several occasions.
“I recruited against him in college and I was with the New York Rangers when he was an assistant with the Pittsburgh Penguins,” says Kyle, head coach at Northern Michigan University in Marquette, an NCAA Division I team.
“He’ll bring organization and structure to that [Salmon King] team. He has a history of preparing his teams and getting them to play to their potential. He’s a great hockey coach.” Kyle says.
That jives with Williams’ memories in Trenton.
“He had the ability to make average guys stand out. Everyone on the team had their roles based on their abilities.
“He recognized the guys who blocked shots or were good checkers and he was very good at breaking down each individual and putting them into their roles,” says Williams.
“He’s a great coach, probably the best I ever played for. You guys are lucky.”