The Hamilton Spectator - - SPORTS - BOB BAUM

The Ari­zona Coy­otes have hired Rick Toc­chet as head coach, turn­ing the team over to a man who helped the Pitts­burgh Pen­guins win the past two Stan­ley Cup ti­tles.

The 53-year-old Toc­chet, who spent the past three sea­sons as a Pitts­burgh as­sis­tant, played 18 sea­sons in the Na­tional Hockey League and helped the Pen­guins win the Stan­ley Cup in 1992.

Toc­chet spent one sea­son as an as­sis­tant to Coy­otes coach Wayne Gret­zky in 2005-06 and played parts of three sea­sons with the team from 1997 to 2000.

Toc­chet’s con­tro­ver­sial de­par­ture from his Coy­otes coach­ing job did not fig­ure into the de­ci­sion to hire him, gen­eral man­ager John Chayka said.

“Rick was the best can­di­date by a wide mar­gin,” Chayka said.

Toc­chet was on a leave of ab­sence from his Coy­otes job in 2007 when he pleaded guilty in New Jer­sey to con­spir­acy to pro­mote gam­bling and pro­mot­ing gam­bling. He was sen­tenced to two years’ pro­ba­tion. NHL com­mis­sioner Gary Bettman said an in­ves­ti­ga­tion showed Toc­chet’s in­volve­ment in gam­bling was not as se­ri­ous as first thought and he was sus­pended for three months.

There was no ev­i­dence Toc­chet ever bet on hockey games.

“He’s a man of char­ac­ter and in­tegrity,” Chayka said.

“Any is­sues in the past are in the past. It didn’t raise any red flags for us what­so­ever.”

Toc­chet briefly re­turned to the Coy­otes in 2008 be­fore be­ing hired as an as­sis­tant at Tampa Bay. He be­came in­terim head coach of the Light­ning that Novem­ber and was head coach at Tampa Bay the next two sea­sons.

But it was his work with the Pen­guins that el­e­vated him to the clear favourite to re­place Dave Tippett, who parted ways with the Coy­otes af­ter eight years as the fran­chise’s head coach.

“He’s one of the best com­mu­ni­ca­tors I’ve come across, not only in hockey, but prob­a­bly pro­fes­sion­ally as well…,” Chayka said.

“I think he can just re­late to the play­ers,” Chayka added.

“He’s very firm. He can mo­ti­vate. He can be ag­gres­sive in his ap­proach, but he can also be that big brother kind of ap­proach with our young play­ers and I think that’s go­ing to be help­ful mov­ing for­ward,” he said.

Chayka said Toc­chet has a clear idea of the style he wants to play.

“He wants to play fast, Chayka said.

“He wants to play ag­gres­sive. He wants to dic­tate time and space.”

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