📝 by means of Patrick Williams
Roy Sommer had a intestine feeling.
After 26 seasons in the San Jose Sharks group ― together with the closing 24 guiding their American Hockey League associates ― the 65-year-old head trainer and his San Jose Barracuda had simply persisted a making an attempt 2021-22 marketing campaign, one of the crucial difficult stories in a occupation as a participant and trainer that dates again to 1974. Even for somebody who had noticed just about the whole thing in this trade, it used to be tricky, indubitably, for the AHL’s all-time chief in wins (808) and video games coached (1,736).
On May 18, that modify arrived for Sommer and the Sharks. Long-time basic supervisor Doug Wilson had stepped down a month previous. The Sharks themselves had long gone via a irritating season. The San Jose group’s plan had Sommer transferring right into a senior marketing consultant position with the Barracuda and long-time captain John McCarthy taking up AHL head-coaching tasks.
“You can’t get mad at an organization that keeps you around 26 years,” Sommer reasoned.
After just about 50 years in hockey, various folks would bounce at that chance so as to start to down-shift right into a genuinely-earned retirement. Not just about as tough because the packed days of an AHL head trainer. Family time. Less go back and forth, indubitably. More alternative to spend time at his loved domestic deep in the rugged mountains of Montana.
But teaching could be in the previous. That used to be the hitch.
And as spring eased into summer time, one thing didn’t really feel proper for Sommer. His teaching occupation stretched again to 1987, simply after he had wrapped up a 10-year professional enjoying occupation. Would he truly no longer be status in the back of a bench, growing gamers, and looking to win hockey video games?
Could he proceed to train? Should he? And if that is so, the place?
There are most effective 32 AHL head-coaching jobs, in spite of everything. Still, he had despatched greater than 150 gamers directly to the NHL throughout his time with San Jose. He were a Louis A.R. Pieri Memorial Award winner because the AHL’s maximum exceptional trainer in 2016-17. There used to be time spent as an affiliate trainer with the Sharks throughout the 2019-20 marketing campaign. His resume may just fit up favorably in opposition to different applicants.
But AHL jobs most effective come open so continuously and draw in a flood of and certified candidates. Nine AHL groups had head-coaching adjustments in the offseason, however a few of the ones strikes had already been in the works.
One emptiness stood out: the San Diego Gulls.
Why no longer San Diego, Sommer idea. Besides the most obvious on-ice attraction of main a group that has had good fortune, the publish would nonetheless be in California, acquainted territory for Sommer, a Bay Area local, and his circle of relatives.
“I still feel I had something to give to the game,” Sommer defined. “I think I’ve evolved. I don’t think I would be around as long as I have if I hadn’t evolved. The way kids are today to where they were 26 years ago, it’s a big difference.”
The arrival of latest control with the mum or dad Anaheim Ducks additionally intended a fresh start for the group. Pat Verbeek had taken over as basic supervisor in Anaheim. Rob DiMaio would function an Anaheim assistant basic supervisor whilst additionally heading the operation in San Diego. Sommer and DiMaio didn’t know each and every different; Verbeek and Sommer were part of the New Jersey Devils group, however that used to be again between 1982 and 1985.
Sommer ran the theory previous his circle of relatives. San Diego would paintings for him. Would San Diego paintings for them?
“The family had a bit to say,” Sommer recounted. “I go, ‘Is this what you want to do?’”
“And they go, ‘No, it’s up to you.’”
“I go, ‘You know what? One more year. I’ll be 66.’”
So, Sommer went for the process and moved via that procedure earlier than heading again to Montana to settle in for the summer time. Three days after arriving there, his telephone rang. It used to be the Ducks. He had the process, following Dallas Eakins (2015-19), Kevin Dineen (2019-21) and Joel Bouchard (2021-22) because the fourth trainer in Gulls historical past.
“I’m just taking it a year at a time,” Sommer persevered. “They sought after a man who knew the [Pacific Division] and knew the league.
He added with a snort, “I think I can honestly say I know that.”
The process in hand, Sommer headed right down to Anaheim for the announcement of his hiring July 12. There used to be a packed press convention to introduce him to San Diego. Then it used to be off to Anaheim for building camp with the Ducks. Even somebody together with his time in the sport may also be stunned, and Sommer had an up-close alternative to look how some other NHL membership ran its operation.
“They go, ‘This is what we do,’” Sommer recalled. “And I go, ‘All right, this is different than what we did in San Jose, but I’ll roll with it.’”
This transfer works for Sommer on each a qualified and private degree. He had noticed the Gulls operation from afar whilst in San Jose, and the group had at all times left an affect.
Now he’s going to enjoy hockey in San Diego from a friendlier vantage level. After splitting a two-game opening-weekend go back and forth to Grand Rapids, the Gulls welcome the Ontario Reign to Pechanga Arena on Friday night time. The groups entire a home-and-home in Ontario on Saturday, briefly permitting Sommer to immerse himself in one of the most AHL’s fiercest rivalries.
“They expect to win,” Sommer stated of the Gulls, who’re a mixed 238-164-26-13 in their first seven AHL seasons whilst incessantly score some of the league’s attendance leaders. “They’ve got a great following.”
And his circle of relatives backs the transfer.
“They’re fired up about it,” Sommer elaborated. “My spouse [Melissa] is a trainer of 18 years, and she or he’s taught in the California faculty [system] for the closing seven, so she’ll get some other 12 months in instructing. The seashores down there, roughly taking a look ahead to that a part of it. It’s simply roughly a groovy space. It used to be most likely everybody’s favourite position to move play, the enthusiasts, the downtown. We used to sit up for the San Diego journeys. Now I’ll be residing it.
“What a life. It’s been really good for us.”
Patrick Williams has been at the American Hockey League beat for almost 20 years for shops together with NHL.com, Sportsnet, TSN, The Hockey News, SiriusXM NHL Network Radio and SLAM! Sports. He used to be the recipient of the AHL’s James H. Ellery Memorial Award for his exceptional protection of the league in 2016.