He had been itching to get behind the bench and out of the TV studio for the past four years since leaving the Tampa Bay Lighting.
And on Wednesday afternoon, CSN television hockey analyst Rick Tocchet got his wish by accepting a job as Mike Johnston’s assistant with the Pittsburgh Penguins.
The 50-year-old Tocchet, who won a Stanley Cup in 1992 as a Penguin, signed a three-year contract.
“It’s great to be back in the fire,” Tocchet told CSNPhilly.com.
Tocchet, who lives in Pittsburgh and not Philly, won’t have to drive home to Mt. Lebanon (a Pittsburgh suburb) like he did after every Flyers game anymore.
“Saves me some gas money,” he said. “I’m excited to get back into things. Four years, I didn’t get any calls and then someone from the Penguins called me and you get a job.”
General manager Jim Rutherford hired him. Tocchet had actually quietly accepted a job last week in Pittsburgh. He wants to remain there where his son lives so he could see him more often.
Tocchet was fired by the Lightning as head coach in April 2010. Previously, he had been an assistant in Colorado (2002-03), Phoenix (2005) before coming to Tampa as an assistant in July 2008.
He admits wondering whether he’d ever get back into the game as a coach.
“It’s a good question because you never know,” Tocchet said. “Three years becomes four years and then all that trust in people you know and stuff like that. And then this.”
Johnston was the coach and general manager of the Portland Winterhawks of the WHL.
“Mike thinks outside the box, really into offense and puck possession, all the attributes that the Penguins have, and that appealed to me,” Tocchet said. “I talked to a couple people who worked under him.
“Eighty-five percent of the league does the same thing, trap and all that. It’s the 10 or 15 percent that do something else that makes the difference, and he’s like that.”
Tocchet says he feels he can bring a harder “attitude” to the Penguins, the kind he brought as a player to both that team and the Flyers over the years.
One of the things Tocchet mentioned in his news conference in Pittsburgh and again in this interview was changing the way guys play on the ice. He wants to make them focused on doing their job and not whining about missed calls or looking for retaliatory hits.
“When you are in the playoffs and get knocked down, you get back up,” Tocchet told reporters earlier. “If you have that attitude. I love that when Chicago’s [Jonathan] Toews got hit in the face, he didn’t look at the referee, he didn’t go down, he continued playing.
“I think that is why Chicago is successful. I’m not saying they don’t have that attitude here, it’s just the little details that I like to see in a player. L.A., down 2-0, you see many times in the playoffs, there was no panic, no bitching, and stuff like that on the bench. That’s the stuff I see.”
Sean Couturier was seen wearing a cast on his foot and walking on crutches at Skate Zone on Wednesday. Flyers general manager Ron Hextall said Couturier had a cyst removed in his foot and that Couturier felt it was not an issue.