St. John’s native John Slaney was officially announced as a new assistant coach for the American Hockey League Tucson Roadrunners Wednesday, confirming a move Slaney hinted at when speaking with The Telegram earlier this month.
For the last two years, the 45-year-old Slaney had been an assistant coach with Arizona Coyotes, the Roardunners’ NHL parent, but with the departure of longtime coach Dave Tippett and the subsequent hiring of Rick Tocchet, there has been a massive staff shakeup in Arizona, with assistant coaches Newell Brown and Jim Playfair also leaving and Tocchet bringing in John MacLean and Scott Allen to take their places.
Slaney is staying in the organization, but by way of a shuffle. Of course, his job in Tucson might be seen as a demotion — after all, he is going from the NHL to the minors — but it also represents a change Slaney had been seeking.
In Arizona, he was the so-called “eye in the sky” assistant working from the press box and relaying in-game information from that perch to his fellow coaches down below. With Tucson, he’ll be back on the bench working as one of assistants (former AHL forward Steve Potvin is the other) to new Roadrunners head coach Mike van Ryn, the former NHL defenceman who had been working in player development for Arizona last season.
It comes with the sort of job description Slaney prefers. In fact, in a conversation with Tippett last season, he had expressed his desire to move back to the role he had enjoyed for four seasons when the Coyotes had their farm club in in Portland, Me., where Slaney was an assistant coach responsible for defenceman.
“(I) told (Tippett) I kind of wanted to get back behind the bench,” Slaney told The Telegram.
“Of course, everyone wants to be the NHL, but I also love the idea of maybe working directly with the players again.”
The change also gives Slaney a little more job security — he had been entering the option year of his contract (the Coyotes held the option), but his new deal as a member of the Roadrunners’s staff will be for three years. And despite the prospect of some commuting — Tucson is about a two-hour drive from Scottsdale, where he and his family live — he’s remaining in Arizona. It’s a place the former NHL defenceman has enjoyed ever since his time with the Phoenix Roadrunners (then the International Hockey League farm team of the Los Angeles Kings) in 1995-96 and with the Coyotes during their inaugural season in 1996-97.
“I remember telling Brenda (his wife) back then that this would be a place where I would like live after I retired (from playing),” said Slaney.