Tim Army Interview, Part 3

Many loyal followers of PC hockey look upon Tim Army as a savior. They see a link back to the time of Frozen Fours and nationally ranked teams. There are also many fans of Friar athletics who are pleased that the coach is an alumnus. However, for Tim Army becoming the Friar hockey coach is simply the fulfillment of his destiny.

However just like Tim encourages his players to grow there came a time where he began to think of what was next. Once again when the timing became right Tim knew it was time to move on. Ron Wilson, a player who Tim always looked up to, offered him a chance to be an assistant for the expansion Anaheim Mighty Ducks.

For a hockey junkie this was the ultimate job. The NHL provided an unbelievable learning opportunity. It was all hockey all the time. As an assistant in college you had other responsibilities such as recruiting and academics. Now was a time to get down to the serious business of learning hockey. It was a constant challenge to put together the puzzle as you prepared for your next games. There was a challenge to putting together scouting reports and video of your opponents and scouting games from your office on satellite 7 hours a day.

There were other satisfactions also. Making a playoff run in the franchise's third season and making the playoffs in the fourth season, being part of the first American team to medal in the World Championship since 1962, and during his time in Washington to win 2 division titles and to make the Stanley Cup finals.

The last season as an NHL assistant also provided another learning lesson. That of making a key component of a team and the team mesh. The last year Ron Wilson and Tim were in Washington was the year Jaromir Jagr was signed as a free agent. Wilson had to adjust to using a player like Jagr and to get Jagr to use his skills to Washington's best advantage. After digging a deep hole they were able to help Jagr gain his rhythm and contribute to a strong run at the playoffs.

Ron Wilson more then any other person in hockey has influenced Tim's thinking. Tim is quick to point out many role models such as Brian Burke, Lou Lamoriello, Steve Stirling, Mike McShane and Tom McVie. Some of the things Tim took from his time with Ron were his game preparations, how Ron used practice so efficiently to get what lessons he wants learned done, his adaptability and most especially Ron's ability to be a bench coach, getting a feel for the game quickly and make the necessary adjustments.

The Portland experience was another opportunity to grow professionally. It was a time to put to use many of the thoughts and ideas that had been gathered since early in his playing career. It also forced Tim to make drastic changes to get the best results possible. Most notably despite Tim's offensive philosophy, in order to compete his second year in Portland he had to make due with what he had. He did not have big scorers so he set about to win games in what he described as ugly hockey, but they won. Last year he changed again due to having a young team. With youth he found they had to play at a high pace in order compete. Portland found themselves in a hole due to a strong league overall and a lack of experience on his team. Once he changed his system the Pirates did challenge for a 2 month stretch for the playoffs only to fall short in the end.

One important area that Tim made key was to maintain the discipline to stay out of the penalty box. Two years ago the Pirates were the least penalized team in the AHL and last year, despite their youth, were still one of the least penalized teams. One of the methods behind his success is make sure the players understand two things. First they know good penalties from playing hard will happen. They are encouraged to fight through checks and to make sure they clear opponents from in front of the net. However, the second thing they are made to understand is that feel good penalties are totally unacceptable. For instance turning around and laying your stick on the opponent if they've stolen the puck from you or retaliating unnecessarily with a punch to the opponent's head was not tolerated. The same will happen at PC and hopefully the team's habit of taking bad penalties will be tamed.

Like any coach Tim emphasized he will play his team to the strengths they have, but he will look at PC as a team which does have the potential to be offensive minded. As the head coach of a college program he has a greater say in the team's make up.

As the season drew to an end Tim was fully convinced he would be in Hershey this coming season. He admitted hearing rumors floating around that the PC job would open up and he would be the coach, but he did not feel comfortable about the whole situation. Over the years since they were contemporaries in college, in the pros and in the assistant coaching ranks he had a great deal of respect for Paul Pooley. It was not until Tim received a phone call that Pooley was supposedly resigning that he even had an inkling the change was about to occur. At that point the events moved quickly, after clearing it with the Capital's organization he expressed his interest in the job on a Friday, by the beginning of the next week he had been interviewed and about a week later he had an offer. The timing and the job was right. Providence, he acknowledged, was the only job he would leave the pros for. For Tim it was a perfect fit. He firmly believes it is right for him and the college and that it's a good location for his family.

As the season approaches Tim is still working to implement many of the programs which were successful at his pro stops or which will be designed to make the supporters of PC hockey more a part of PC hockey. The weekend of August 20th he is bringing back the hockey alumni for a golf/alumni game outing. In reaching out to them he is seeking to reinvigorate a base that brings a deep concern for the program. For his part, plans are in the works to have special ceremonies honoring the past. In particular he would like to focus that on the home game of the Mayor's Cup game with Brown. If all goes well this year in December before the 20th anniversary year expires he'd like to honor our most recent Frozen Four team. There is also a thought to having numbers raised to honor particular groups or players.

For the students he wants to see his own players become active members of the PC community. He spoke of how as a player he attended many various sporting events. By showing themselves to be part of the PC experience they will encourage others to be part of their experience. He also wants to grow an atmosphere where the students at PC know they have ownership in this team too.

Finally for the regular fan Tim would love to implement an idea that worked well in Portland. That would be to have Chalk Talks with the fans. There are also plans to hold clinics. Most importantly Tim stressed his open door policy where he even encourages the fans and alumni to attend practice or to talk to him about the program. Again this year there will be games on Cox TV and on radio. Tim plans to make every effort to make these broadcasts very fan friendly by providing any resource these broadcast mediums need in producing the games for the fans at home.

For the conclusion I asked Tim how he felt about the team's chances this year. I actually quoted a couple of things Dick Williams said when he took over the Red Sox back in 1967. One quote was about winning more then they lose. Tim's response even with this team his goal is to win. He has no intention of waiting till he has 2 or 3 of his recruiting classes in place to begin winning. In response to the Williams quote of it being more fun to win then to lose, he said he wants to establish an environment where it is fun to play while growing as a player.

With the constant theme of things coming full circle and the role destiny plays in things quite possibly in about 2015 the following will play out. With the NCAA championship game in overtime #19 for the Friars, Derek Army will thread a pass to a breaking #16 Travis Army for a clean game-winning goal. What better way to tie together a family with a long hockey history with their success at Providence College.

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