USA Hockey Magazine

October 2017

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PHOTO BY Getty Images 24 USAHOCKEYMAGAZINE.COM 2017-18 NHL Preview 'Big Kids Play' Preparing for the new season, Sullivan sits in his spare office at the Pens' practice home at UPMC Lemieux Sports Complex just north of the city. Staffers lean into his open door to say hi to "Sully" or "Sul," and he warmly greets them back. Most of the team is on the main rink, doing an optional, pre-training camp skate that is as smiley as it is sweaty. One of the learn-to-skate moms who's looking on tells her toddler, "Watch the big kids play!" Sullivan grins at the quip. He likes it when his players approach parts of practice like "kids on a pond." That's why he continues to be a big proponent of small-area games, even for these big guys. He and his coach- ing staff work hard to cook up games that "pique their curiosity and appeal to their competitiveness," then "just step back and let the guys play," while they 're actually working on skills, including recognition and anticipation. "It's experiential learning," he says, adding, "The players love it." Even the best players in the world, such as Sidney Crosby, who's out on that ice, leading by hard-working example. His coach loves the passion. "I don't think we ever arrive — as players or as coaches, for that matter," Sullivan says. "We're always striving to get better." Home Grown The 49-year-old Marshfield, Mass., native has had many leadership roles in hockey, going back to the days when he coached his own two daughters and son at The Bog Ice Arena near where he grew up. That's where he took the Cup this summer and shared it with his family, friends and the locals, including the youngsters who still play there. He still plays there, when he can, for the local "Town Cup." As he told the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette that day, "Hockey players never forget where they came from." Michael Barry Sullivan, his wife, Kate, and his father, George — his onetime coach — still live near Duxbury in the offseason, w h e r e S u l l i v a n e n j oy s g o l f a n d p l ay i n g piano, sometimes accompanied by a cigar and a pint of Guinness drawn from his own Penguins-themed tap. He retains his Boston accent and the humility of someone who has lost games and jobs as well as won them at what he frequently refers to as the sport's highest level. As he told the Quincy, Mass., Patriot Ledger, "You learn from your successes, but you might learn more from your failures. I've had my fair share of both." He p l ay e d c o l l e g i a t e h o c ke y, a n d wa s captain, at Boston University (1986-'90), and played 709 games over parts of 12 NHL seasons with the San Jose Sharks, Calgary Flames, Boston Bruins and Phoenix Coyotes. He s p e n t t w o s e a s o n s ( 2 0 0 3 - ' 0 6 ) h e a d coaching the Bruins. He was an assistant coach with the Tampa Bay Lightning (2007- '09), New York Rangers (2009-'13) and the Vancouver Canucks (2013-'14). He was the Chicago Blackhawks player development coach when the Penguins hired him to coach their American Hockey League affiliate, the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. Steel City Success A month later, with the Pens struggling in December 2015, the organization named Sullivan the Pens head coach and he turned the team around, leading them to a 33-16-5 regular season finish and then 16 more wins to earn the Stanley Cup. He was just the sixth American coach to win it. Last year's NHL preview issue of this mag- azine noted, "Fans in the Steel City can't wait to see what he does over the course of a full season." And they were not disappointed, as he took a team crushed by injuries to a 50-win STATS FROM HIS PLAYING DAYS say he shoots left, but people in Pittsburgh love Mike Sullivan because he's a straight shooter. It doesn't hurt that the Pittsburgh Penguins have won back-to-back Stanley Cups in his first two seasons as head coach. But you get the sense that Pittsburgh fans and players would like him even if he and the team didn't do the nearly impossible. As always seems to be the case, the coach has a knack for telling it like it is, straight up, with no excuses. "Just play," he tells his players. And he means it. After Leading The Penguins To Back-To-Back Titles, Mike Sullivan Looks For The Stanley Cup Hat Trick DOWN DOUBLING /// By Bob Batz, Jr.

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