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Ford Ready for Transition to the Bench

 

by Aaron Sims

Scott Ford was helping Admirals head coach Dean Evason and Stan Drulia run drills during rookie camp in Nashville. As a newly-appointed assistant coach for the Milwaukee Admirals Ford has to do his part to make practices run efficiently.

Having played what turned out to be his last professional game as a player just a few months before, it’s understandable for him to still be in player mode.

“There’s been some bloopers here and there,” said Ford. “Instead of moving pucks from one end of the ice to the other I took a knee in the pile (around the dry-erase board for explanation of the next drill) like I was still a player. I got an eyebrow raise from Dean and Stan.”

“Dean and Stan have been great teachers and mentors, but that doesn’t come without some ribbing.”

For 11 seasons the man affectionately known as “The Sheriff” was a rock of a player. He played in at least part of seven of those seasons with the Milwaukee Admirals. He ranks second in Admirals American Hockey League history in games played and in penalty minutes. He served the team as a captain and as an alternate captain. He is one of the few players who played for Milwaukee in the 21st century to make the city his home.

After he was unable to find work as a player at the start of the 2014-15 season in the AHL, Ford signed a contract with ECHL South Carolina, where he was part of a record-breaking season. The Stingrays won an ECHL-record 23 consecutive games. The team went on to lose in the Kelly Cup Finals to the Allen Americans. The last game was played June 14.

During the offseason, Ford mulled over his options but had always thought about getting involved in coaching. He’d had many conversations over the years with Predators management, his coaches and teammates about possibly making the move behind the bench. On September 8, 2015, Ford was named an assistant coach for the Admirals.

Chicago Blackhawks goalie Scott Darling, who played with Ford and the Admirals in the 2013-14 season, thinks Ford will be up to the challenge.

“I think it’s a perfect fit for him to start his coaching career with the Admirals. He was the heartbeat of our team two years ago and had the experience and personality to bond with and guide any and all players on the team. He had an awesome career and is well-respected in the hockey world.”

“We actually talked about him becoming a coach some day,” said former Admirals head coach Ian Herbers. “It isn’t a surprise. One thing’s for sure, his hours have gotten longer now.”

Ford has already put in the longer hours. “It was great to be in Nashville (for training camp) and learn what goes on behind closed doors.”

The Brown University grad has been on the staff at a hockey school in his hometown of Fort St. John, B.C. for several years and says he’s always had a passion for teaching, coaching and developing players.

“We used to joke with him about being ‘Reggie Dunlop’ (Paul Newman’s character in the hockey movie “Slapshot”)”, said defenseman Anthony Bitetto. “He was 100% a coach when we played.”

Former Admirals captain Joe Piskula concurs. “He’s the real-life ‘Reggie Dunlop’. He shows guys how to conduct themselves as pros on and off the ice by being a good leader himself.”

“There’s a handful of defensemen and a handful of forwards in Nashville that developed in Milwaukee. Hopefully, I had a little part in that,” said Ford.

Those players include, but are not limited to, Roman Josi, Victor Bartley, Mattias Ekholm, Gabriel Bourque and Filip Forsberg.

Herbers, who is now an assistant coach with the Edmonton Oilers, adds, “As a player, he had a passion for the game and always tried to get better. He’s been around for a long time with that organization, so he knows what it demands. I found him to be a great communicator.”

Ford played 782 professional games, counting playoffs. Unfortunately, he didn’t get one in the National Hockey League. Piskula believes that missing the NHL on his resume won’t hinder Ford in his coaching career.

“He may not have NHL experience, but he has invaluable experience at the AHL level. He has played with and helped so many players move on to the NHL.”

Admirals center Colton Sissons agrees with Piskula. “One huge advantage that Scott has is the fact he just finished playing and understands today's game. Scott will have a lot of things to learn as he goes, but his attitude and work ethic will make that a lot easier.”

“I was playing in June. It’s been fast and furious, but it’s a great opportunity,” said Ford. “I’m very fortunate to be with an organization I’m familiar with.”

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