Rocky Thompson is at his best when he’s thrown into a high-pressure environment.
So when he was named the new Wolves coach Wednesday, he took charge of a team that will serve as the American Hockey League affiliate of the NHL’s newest franchise, the Vegas Golden Knights.
Thompson, 39, becomes the Wolves’ 10th coach in franchise history after coaching the Windsor Spitfires of the Ontario Hockey League the last two seasons, including a Memorial Cup title in 2017. He replaces Craig Berube, who led the Wolves to a AHL Central Division title in his only season with the team.
Berube still has a year remaining on his two-year contract with the St. Louis Blues and, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, is looking to return to the NHL in some coaching capacity.
But with the Wolves coming off a division title, Thompson — who spent 11 AHL seasons as a right wing with seven different teams — embraces the expectations that come with his new title.
“I love the pressure that winning brings upon you,” Thompson said. “My whole career was based on my own pressure. The way I played, there was stress involved in how you deal with that situation and how you get better as a result of it.”
Thompson carried that philosophy over to coaching. Before joining the Spitfires in 2015, Thompson spent eight years working as an assistant in the Edmonton Oilers organization.
Thompson’s ability to develop talent and prepare players for the NHL were keys to the Golden Knights hiring him.
“He has proven to be very capable in that area,” Golden Knights general manager George McPhee said in a statement. “Rocky is the right coach to help us win championships in Chicago.”
While player development is the biggest priority for AHL coaches, McPhee said winning will be key.
“You want to develop winners,” Thompson said. “You want to develop players at that level who know what it’s like to win and what it takes to win. You want your individuals to earn everything they get and to fight for it.”
Now he will bring that philosophy to the Wolves.
“He knows how to win,” Wolves general manager Wendell Young said in a statement. “He was a tough, hard worker when he played and those characteristics have carried over as a coach. He is meticulous in every area. He’s going to be a tremendous asset when it comes to developing players and continuing the Wolves’ winning ways.”
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