With less than three weeks until the Utica Comets' pre-season opener, coach Trent Cull is already at work.
Joining a new organization, familiarizing himself with a new city, and following in the steps of a successful and popular coach, Cull has much to learn.
Comets Tales spoke with the new Comets' coach days before his leading the Vancouver Canucks' top prospects in their annual Young Stars Classic in Penticton, British Columbia.
Direct and confident, Cull is preparing for what lies ahead in Utica.
Q: As a player or coach, do you have any superstitions or rituals at the opening of training camp?
A: No, I don't think so. I just want to come into camp well organized and prepared. You have to be ready to give it your best.
Q: Over the summer, how did you get acquainted with players and the organization as a whole?
A: I spoke with some of the players (phone), and there was a week of development camp to get to know some of the guys. At camp, most of the players didn't want to talk. There will be plenty of time for that in Utica. I'm the coach in the American League. The players want to impress Vancouver (coaches). You just stand back, and let them (players) do what they do.
Q: What are your coaching attributes that will make players better, and some reach the NHL?
A: Teaching and communication are what I do well. Developing young players requires patience. As a former defenseman, I know, you need a game plan, not just day to day. How you develop players, and win, brings about a close relationship to the team.
Q: Have you thought about what it will be like for yourself being on the other side of the Comets-Syracuse Crunch rivalry?
A: I'm not worried in the least. I've been in Penticton, B.C. a few days, thinking of the Young Stars Classic. Our (Utica) staff is in charge. This is where I'm focusing my time. Winning games are important. Anything extra will be icing on the cake.
Q: After completing your playing career (2003-04), you immediately went into coaching. Why no break?
A: I knew that my body was done. I was approached about an assistant's position with Guelph in the Ontario League. I spent two years there, then four years in Syracuse. I came back (OHL) to coach Sudbury for three years. There's no substitute for experience. This (coaching an AHL team) is the job that I've always wanted, and now I finally got it.
Q: What did you learn coaching in the OHL that prepared you for the future?
A: Since I played in the league (Owen Sound, Windsor, Kingston), and in the AHL, both were great experiences. Coaching in the Ontario League gave me a mindset of preparing for where the kids are coming from. So, on this level (AHL) we can be ahead of the game.
Q: You and Comets' president Robert Esche were AHL teammates (1999-00). What memories do you have of that time?
A: We were actually reassigned for each other to Houston (IHL) and Springfield (AHL), and spent a few weeks together. There was also time in Phoenix's camp that we were together.
Q: Any hockey experiences that you reflect on for inspiration?
A: Just that you always have opportunities to win championships. When I was with Houston (Aeros), Dave Tippett (coach) presented opportunities for us that brought about a (IHL) championship. There have been losses in the Finals when I was with Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, and Syracuse. Playoff hockey is a constant goal.
Q: Any personal goals for this season?
A: Mine (goals) are no different than that of the players. We all want opportunities to get to the NHL. Our goals intertwine. As a group we are moving together; never us and them – we're in this together.
written by – Don Laible