BY DON SCOTT
Bob Woods, the only Hershey Bear to win a Calder Cup as a player, assistant coach and head coach, and now currently an assistant coach with the Washington Capitals, made a rare visit to Hershey this summer.
His career as a player and coach could make him the ‘Poster Boy’ for sticking to it in numerous locations and positions to get to the NHL, despite not being able to do it as a player.
“Getting to the NHL as a player didn’t work out for me and that’s disappointing, but as a coach, things have worked out well,” Woods said. “I got some opportunities and had people believe in me and that’s what this business is all about. You build relationships and make sure you work hard. Usually, if you do that, you get a chance.
“I knew when I left Hershey in 1997 I wanted to get into coaching and was fortunate to run into Bruce (Boudreau) and work with him,” Woods continued. “Another guy who was always there for me was Doug (Yingst), who I got to know as a player and stayed in touch with and that ended up opening the door for me here in the coaching department.”
‘Woody’s’ coaching career started as player-coach for Mississippi in the ECHL, where he then became head coach in 2001. He moved to the Bears as an assistant in 2005 and took over as the head coach in 2007 when Boudreau moved up as the Caps’ head coach.
“Unlike coaching in the ECHL, where the off-season is filled with trying to get players, when you get to AHL and NHL, that isn’t so much the way it is,” Woods explained. “All coaches like to have a little input about the players they have because they have a very good feel for their team and what their needs are. I think it is great that (Hershey general manager Yingst) Doug and Washington do take input from us.
“You still do a lot of teaching at the NHL level, but the big difference is the level of play,” Woods added. “The guys are stronger and a little more mature, but I enjoyed my time here because it was more of a family atmosphere.”
“The organization has to be happy with the relationship they’ve had and all the players who graduated to the next level, whether they came to the Capitals or went to other NHL teams. It says a lot for what Hershey does. It is a great place to develop players, and doing it in a winning environment, that is very important.”
As a former AHL coach, Woods gave his opinion on the recent schedule change the league adopted, which reduced the number of games from 80 to 76.
“The loss of four games will affect some teams in different ways,” said Woods. “I’m sure Hershey doesn’t like losing two home games with the crowds they get, but what it will do is alleviate some weekday games where other markets have trouble drawing. Getting away from the 3-in-3 and 4-in-5 games is good. When the NHL teams have injuries and makes call-ups, it’s hard to put a quality team on the ice. It’s tough unless you have depth in the organization.
“That’s where Doug has done a really good job of getting guys under contract so they’re accessible,” added Woods. “There is a plan and a vision in the organization for the Caps, Bears and even South Carolina. They expect to compete every year for a Cup and most of the time they have a legitimate chance to do that, something not every organization has.”
As to why he hasn’t been able to get back to Hershey more often, Woods explained: “Our schedule is so demanding, mostly because of the travel. In the AHL, you’re playing more weekends and have the week to regroup, but in the NHL, you’re playing almost every second day. Days you’re not playing there is preparation for the next game and with the travel, there’s not a lot of rest so it does demand quite a bit.”