Comets Tales: Meet Jason King
by Don LaibleAug 16, 2016
When the puck drops this fall on the Utica Comets' fourth season, there will be a new face standing behind the bench for the first time. Jason King, a draft pick of the Vancouver Canucks in 2001 and most recently Director of Hockey Operations for the St. John's IceCaps, is the newest addition to coach Travis Green's staff.
Comets Tales spoke with King about his hockey past and expectations of the coming season.
Q: Take us through the process on how you became Travis Green's selection.
A: I spoke with Travis a few times during the off season. I knew Nolan Baumgartner was there (Utica). Nolan and I have known each other for a long time. I was looking for an opportunity to get back into coaching.
Q: Have IceCap personnel give you the skinny on what game night in Utica is like?
A: Actually, I have been to Utica a few times (with the IceCaps). The energy there, players love that atmosphere. Utica is a tremendous hockey market.
Q: You're 34-years-old, and look young enough to still play. Do the fans ever confuse you as a player?
A: A few times (laughs). I was fortunate to play for 11 years. By not being long removed from playing (King last played during the 2012-13 season), I should relate well with the Comets; a fresh voice that "Greener" is looking for.
Q: You spent three seasons in the QMJHL with the Halifax Mooseheads. Give us a memorable game moment, or road trip experience.
A: During my first year, we (Halifax) hosted the Memorial Cup tournament. We had just moved to Newfoundland that year. Halifax is a great market, and I'll always cherish playing there.
The trips to Northern Quebec are memorable. Taking the ferry and the long bus rides, that was bonding time with my teammates. Some trips were 13 and 14 hours. Now, I sit, and laugh about the card games in the back of the bus.
Q: Your first AHL season (2002-03) with the Manitoba Moose, you were teammates with Nolan Baumgartner. Now you're teammates again. You have a Back to the Future thing going on.
A: With Nolie, when we get together, it's like time hadn't skipped a beat. We pick up where we left off. We're good friends, and our wives are close too. My wife stood in Liz's (Elizabeth Baumgartner) wedding. It will be good for them to see each other again.
We have been in touch a lot with the Baumgartners, trying to figure out housing, and getting our kids settled in a school district. They know the ins and outs of the city. That's so important. My kids will be in grade four, and my youngest will start kindergarten.
Q: During the 2002-03 season you had the Crawford brothers as coaches (Eric-assistant with Manitoba, Marc-Vancouver). Did this work to your advantage when being called up to the Canucks?
A: The Crawfords are tremendous coaches. I see Marc from time to time. With Eric scouting for Montreal, we get to say hi. It's great to keep the relationships up. When I got to Vancouver, I'm sure they (Crawfords) spoke.
Q: You get the call to the NHL. You arrive in Vancouver. Who were the most intimidating faces in the room?
A: First, let me say, I have a lot of pride being back in the organization that drafted me. I played with Trevor (Linden) with I joined the Canucks. The three big ones (teammates) that looked intimidating were Markus Naslund, Ed Jovanovski, and Dan Cloutier. Todd Bertuzzi was in his prime as a superstar too.
When I entered the room, it was a jaw-dropping, special moment.
Q: For a short time in '04-'05, with the Moose you were teammates with the late Rick Rypien. What are your memories of him?
A: Rick was a great teammate. He was the kind of guy who would do anything for you. Rick came to play with his work boots always on and he was quiet off the ice. Right away, you had respect for the guy. It's a sad story that hits home. Rick was a special human being, and is thoroughly missed.
Q: Back to Nolie. Your first three pro seasons, the two of you were teammates. How was that experience?
A: It was great. He's a pure leader. When I was in Manitoba, Nolie was my captain. Guys looked up to him. He played years beyond his age. When Jen and I arrived, he was the first to welcome us.
Q: In year five, you leave to play in the Swedish hockey league (Skelleftea). Any surprises you learned in skating over there?
A: Patience. It was the biggest thing on and off the ice for me. The players there are so laid-back. They have a ton of skills, and are patient. My wife and I just got married before we left for Sweden. At times, it seemed as if we had about two hours of daylight. That took some getting used to.
Q: You joined the Anaheim Ducks organization for the 2007-08 season, the year after they won the Cup. What was it like to be in a room full of players such as Chris Pronger, Todd Bertuzzi, Corey Perry, George Parros, and Ryan Getzlaf?
A: It was an eye-opener for sure. Some of those guys likely are future hall of famers. I got to attend the ring party at the owner's home. I'll never forget how beautiful that home is, right along the Pacific Ocean. Seeing what those guys accomplished drove me to work harder. If you have passion and want to have fun, just seeing the rings, I didn't need anything else to motivate me.
Q: Mark Mowers (Whitesboro native) was with the Ducks at that time. Any interactions with him?
A: We go back to camp together, and played some together. We see each other from time to time, and talk since Mark scouts for Montreal.
Q: You put in three seasons in the DEL (Germany). Your coach with Mannheim was Dave King. How much confusion did that cause with fans and media?
A: Quite often. Especially, since I couldn't speak or read German. The media did a double check often, on who they were talking about.
Q: Why the abrupt departure from playing for the IceCaps (9 games) in your final season of 2012-13?
A: I had a concussion. I just couldn't regroup, and I wasn't satisfied where I was physically. I didn't want to risk my health. It was a tough decision (retirement) to make; bitter sweet.
Q: You went immediately from playing to coaching the very next season. How did the transition go, in coaching some of the players who were just your teammates?
A: I was fortunate. It all went somewhat fast. It was different. There was an adjustment period with the players. I still wanted to be a link between the players and coaching staff, but you have to know where the fine line is. There was a lot of fun. Mark Morrison, our other assistant coach, helped me a lot. I loved every minute of it.
Q: Why the switch to director of hockey operations?
A: There were a few different reasons. The management side of hockey always interested me. I was approached by our COO (Gelnn Stanford) to stay on board when Winnipeg switched affiliates to Manitoba. He offered me the position. I thought it would be good to keep on my resume. My passion is in coaching.
Q: You played 59 games in the NHL. Define what that means to you.
A: I'm a modest guy that got to play (NHL). It was fun and I'm proud that I did so. But, I played the majority of my career in the AHL. I have the same pride in playing for this league, as well. I'm humbled that I got to play professionally for a long time.
Q: If you could play Game 60 in the NHL - who would be on your line, and who are you playing against?
A: I'd be back with the twins (Daniel & Henrik Sedin). They are tremendous. Our opponents - the Chicago Blackhawks. They're pretty special. To go up against Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews would be challenging.
Q: When will you be making your way to Utica?
A: In another week and a half to two weeks. It should take us five or six days (approximately 1,500 miles). After my first year coaching, we drove to Florida from St. John's. My kids are used to traveling. There are plenty of movies to watch and iPads used.