home jobs contact us
Our Clients:
Browse by Sport
Find us on ASAP sports on Facebook ASAP sports on Twitter
ASAP Sports RSS Subscribe to RSS
Click to go to
ASAP Sports e-Brochure View our


November 12, 2009

Ken Hitchcock

DAVID KEON: Good afternoon, everyone. I'm David Keon of the National Hockey League's public relations department. I'd like to welcome you to today's call. Our guest is Columbus Blue Jackets head coach Ken Hitchcock. Thanks to Ken for taking the time today to answer your questions, and thanks to Todd Sharrock of the Blue Jackets' public relations department for helping to arrange this call.
Last night Ken became the 16th coach in history to reach the one thousand games coached as a National Hockey League head coach. He's the second coach this season to do it, joining Marc Crawford of the Dallas Stars, who accomplished the feat on October 30th.
Ken is in his fourth season with Columbus, and 14th in the National Hockey League. He has posted a 520-351-129 record in one thousand career games with the Blue Jackets, Dallas Stars, and Philadelphia Flyers.
On February 19th, 2009, he became only the 13th coach in NHL history to record 500 wins with a 4-3 shootout win over the Toronto Maple Leafs.
Again, we thank Ken for taking the time to answer your questions. We'll open it up for questions.

Q. With so much discussion now about head hits and concussions, if there was some moment in your career where your opinion, your understanding changed as what was once thought of having their bell rung, now viewed as something much more serious than that?
KEN HITCHCOCK: You know what, I think for me it's the process. What I've really noticed is that when I first came in the league, every player knew exactly who he was playing against every shift. Every player knew if it was going to be a finesse shift or he was going to have to keep his head up.
I think the thing that's really changed for me is I'm not really sure that the awareness of who you're playing against is out there, and I think it's greatly impacting individual player awareness.
I think we're getting a lot of injuries on awareness issues, which for whatever reason, when you talk to the veteran players, the guys that were around earlier on, they knew everything about every player all the time on the opposition. It's a lot harder to keep track of that now with the constant turnover of players and stuff like that.

Q. In saying that, once somebody does have that kind of injury, is the culture changing where it's more acceptable and people understand we can't just take this lightly, whereas before someone might take a smelling salt and get back on the ice?
KEN HITCHCOCK: Yeah, but I think the thing that's changed now are all the guys that years later have concussion problems. I look at a guy like Keith Primeau right now, his ongoing difficulties that he deals with on a monthly and weekly basis was a real eye-opener for a lot of us, because it's never gone away. It's with him, and it's going to be with him for the rest of his life. I think that started to be a real eye-opener for players. When they see players who they played against struggle in everyday life still, it's a real eye-opener for all of us.

Q. I look at the list now, you've tied Roger Neilson, but you have only a thousand or so to go to catch Scotty Bowman. What are your feelings about matching Neilson, and how long do you think you'll go?
KEN HITCHCOCK: Well, with Roger, Roger was an icon for all of us because he was a coach. Everything he did was coaching, from his hockey schools to baseball camps to the way he did the coaching symposium. He was the guy that all of us as coaches really admired because we thought of him as 'the coach.'
For me, I feel like as long as I'm energized to teach, as long as I don't lose that energy, that fire to teach and build teams, I feel like I can do this at a high level for a long time.
I think if I lose that energy, I'll just knock on the GM's door and probably just leave, you know, because I think the minute you lose the energy to build your team, your days are pretty much numbered.

Q. Looking back over your career, what do you think your biggest steppingstone was as a coach? Was it maybe going into Kamloops, into Philly, or Kalamazoo as a minor league coach?
KEN HITCHCOCK: Kalamazoo, for sure. When I went to Kalamazoo, I didn't have a lot of confidence. The situation in Philly, we had lost for three years in a row. We didn't have very much success. I kind of forgot how to be a head coach. When I went to Kalamazoo, we were in an older league with a lot of really good players in it, a lot of kind of borderline NHL players. We had these young teams. It felt like I was coaching back in Kamloops again.
I really got invigorated and confident coaching that group that was in Kalamazoo. A lot of that group ended up playing for the Stars, Lagenburner, Matvichuk, Marshall, Turco, Fernandez, Lukowich. A lot of those guys ended up playing for the Stars. I got very confident being able to coach that young group there in a veteran league.
The adjustment for me didn't seem as harsh or as big as maybe it would have if I would have maybe done it a different way.

Q. Kalamazoo, were they independent or the Stars farm team?
KEN HITCHCOCK: They were the Stars farm team. We played in the same division as Fort Wayne and Detroit and Cleveland and that. There were great rivalries at that time.

Q. When you were coaching in juniors in Kamloops, who is the best junior player you coached on that team?
KEN HITCHCOCK: No question, Rob Brown. Nobody was close to Brownie. Brownie could do things. He was the Wayne Gretzky of the Western Hockey League. He could do things at a level that no one else was even close to. He was a special player there, boy.

Q. Sorry about last night.
KEN HITCHCOCK: Hey, 1,001 is tomorrow, so don't worry about that.

Q. All those years ago when you were working sporting goods in Edmonton, you probably would have laughed at the notion that one day you'd have one thousand NHL games as a head coach. Am I right?
KEN HITCHCOCK: Yeah. You know, like I was so ill-prepared because when I phoned to Kamloops to go for the interview, I called from the airport, and they said, Make sure you bring your résumé with you. I started gulping. I wrote the résumé for that job on a piece of paper in pencil. They still have a copy of it.
I had no clue what I was getting into. I was so ill-prepared for junior hockey, I basically BS'ed my way into the job, telling those guys I could do everything. If it wasn't for all those veteran players there, I would have never made it through the first year because all those guys like Ferner and Ray, Gordie Mark, those guys, they helped me so much. Gordie Walker, those guys helped me so much get through the first year because I didn't even know which direction to point the darn bus.

Q. The game has changed so much over the years. Obviously it's essential for any coach with longevity to change with it. How much of a challenge sometimes is that?
KEN HITCHCOCK: Well, it was huge for me because in junior we played like Edmonton. In minor pro we played like Edmonton, full-court press, pinch down the walls, 2-1-2 all over the ice. We couldn't do that based on personnel in Dallas, so I had to adjust. Basically for 10 years, I coached the way Montréal played in the '70s and '80s, you know, with kind of pressure, but really strong positional play, which is a philosophy that a lot of coaches have now.
The adjustment for us now is the way you sell it to the players. Before when you had older teams, you could sell it as structured defense to create offense. Now the sales part of it is how fast can you play to create your offense? How fast can you create defense? How fast can you get through the neutral zone to create your offense?
To me, the game, it's a lot speedier now, but you're also selling the speed factor a lot more. The players want to know what they can do to get quickly into the offensive zone. When you got young players, you've got to try to sell them in a different way now than you did, say, five, ten years ago.

Q. This challenge you have in Columbus right now, you have an up-and-coming team, can you talk about that, what it would mean to you to bring this team to the upper echelon in the NHL.
KEN HITCHCOCK: Well, I came here knowing exactly what I was getting into. I never had the challenge in any coaching position I've had, I've never started on the ground floor. I never started with a team that is down-and-out, trying to come back into the upper echelon. I've never had that challenge. It would be the biggest reward I ever had if we went the distance.
For me, that's why I signed on: to see how far I could take this group. We made huge steps in the last 12 months. But it just seems like the steps get bigger and bigger every day. For me, I have really enjoyed building this team, but I'm also finding out, when you reach a certain level, the next step is the hardest one.
Getting to become a playoff team was a big step. But the next step to becoming legit night in and night out to me is a bigger challenge. That to me is the one we're going through right now.

Q. What is practice like today, a day after a loss, the way that is? I saw you meshed some video and on-ice session together. Were you happy with practice and what was it like?
KEN HITCHCOCK: I had structured intensity to it today. I've never done that before, where I've brought video onto the bench. I thought, as I was going onto the ice, I thought, This is a great video we put together. I don't want to show anything about Detroit. Tomorrow when we play Anaheim, we got to get ready. I thought, If I'm going to take this stuff into the practice, practice some of the things we need to work on, I've got to show it.
I showed a sequence of videos leading up to two drills that we did. I thought the players really responded the right way. I mean, it was a very slow start to the practice. Guys were a little bit down. But as we started to compete against each other, we started to put some of the things in place that we needed. This has been happening over the -- we've gotten away with the last two games against Atlanta and Carolina. We were making the same errors and the same mistakes. We paid for it against Detroit.
So rather than just go through something which is strictly punishment, we put structure into the intensity. I thought as we move forward our players responded in the right way.

Q. Did they look at you kind of dumbfounded when you brought the TV out there?
KEN HITCHCOCK: Well, they stared at the TV. We had kind of a day that there wasn't a lot of laughter. Yeah, I'm not sure what they thought of it. But I know one thing: when your number gets called, you're up on the video, there were some things that weren't pretty.
But they went out and did the right things. It was really there to reinforce the things that we weren't doing well. We had to make those changes.
Being able to take it right on the ice right away, I thought our guys really adjusted.

Q. Was it mostly stuff from last night's game or was there other stuff from other games thrown in as well?
KEN HITCHCOCK: No, it was on one element: it was on our forecheck. Detroit makes you pay for overpursuit. We were overpursuing the puck. Detroit was able to snap it through the middle of the ice on us all night. We have a very young team, and it's really difficult to teach patience with a young team. The puck becomes a magnet. Detroit makes you pay dearly if the puck becomes a magnet.
That's what we did yesterday. We really got sucked into the puck and gave up the middle of the ice so many times. They just came through us out of their zone far too easily, then they came at us with a lot of speed.

Q. Huselius, is he getting close? He was practicing today, right?
KEN HITCHCOCK: Yeah, the line was back together with him and Vermette and Nash. They had a very good practice today. I think we're thinking he's going to play tomorrow.
Torres took a slapshot in the face yet. Raffi won't play. And probably Sammy Pahlsson will be out on Friday, too. Neither one of those two guys are going to play on Friday. Right now we're thinking that Huselius and Blunden will take their places.

Q. So you get Huselius back at this time?
KEN HITCHCOCK: We're lucky. We lose two good players and get one good one back.

End of FastScripts

About ASAP SportsFastScripts ArchiveRecent InterviewsCaptioningUpcoming EventsContact Us
FastScripts | Events Covered | Our Clients | Other Services | ASAP in the News | Site Map | Job Opportunities | Links
ASAP Sports, Inc. | T: 1.212 385 0297