SEATTLE – The American Hockey League’s Coachella Valley Firebirds coaching staff is starting to take shape with the announcement of the organization’s first head coach. Just as their namesake is taken from a desert legend, its head coach is a legend himself around professional hockey. Earlier on Tuesday, the Thunderbird’s National Hockey League affiliate, Seattle Kraken, announced that Dan Bylsma would serve as the first head coach in new franchise’s history.
Coachella Valley Firebirds Coaching Staff Takes Shape
Bylsma is no stranger to the AHL or the Kraken, as he spent the 2021-22 season as an assistant coach with the Charlotte Checkers. He worked closely with the Kraken’s prospects while they shared a dual affiliation in Charlotte with the Florida Panthers. In this role with the Checkers, the team advanced to the Atlantic Division Finals in the Calder Cup Playoffs, losing to the Springfield Thunderbirds in a best-of-five series. Now he looks to take the Kraken prospects to new heights as the first member of the Coachella Valley Firebirds Coaching Staff.
This past season in Charlotte, Bylsma alongside Kraken prospects and other players in their organization like Connor Carrick, Dennis Cholowski, Cale Fleury, Gustav Olofsson, and Alexander True.
Before joining the Seattle organization, Bylsma served as an NHL head coach for eight seasons, including a six-season stint with the Pittsburgh Penguins. With Pittsburgh, he led the team to a Stanley Cup in 2009 and won the Jack Adams Award as the league’s most outstanding coach in 2011.
“We are thrilled to welcome Dan Bylsma to the Firebirds family and look forward to his leadership in building a unified roster of players as well as creating a championship product on the ice.” – Steve Fraser, president of Acrisure Arena and the Coachella Valley Firebirds.
Bylsma’s coaching career actually began in the AHL, serving as an assistant coach with the Cincinnati Mighty Ducks in 2004-05. After a stint with the New York Islanders, he returned to the AHL, this time with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins. Initially, he served as an assistant coach with the AHL Penguins in 2006-08 and was later promoted to head coach in 2008-09 before moving up to the NHL Pens.
On top of his coaching experience in the American League, he also brings along 124 games as a player in the league to his new coaching role. In five seasons with the Rochester Americans, Albany River Rats, Moncton Hawks, Springfield Falcons, Lowell Lock Monsters, and Mighty Ducks, Bylsma skated in 95 regular-season games. He tallied 16 goals and 24 assists for 40 points and 84 penalty minutes. In 29 AHL playoff appearances, Bylsma added four goals and five assists, with 35 penalty minutes.
“It’s an exciting opportunity to go in on the ground floor for Coachella Valley alongside the Kraken to establish a culture and mindset with a winning backdrop,” said Bylsma early on Tuesday to NHL.com. “We’re going to be an expansion team in the American Hockey League with the Seattle way of doing things and developing players.”
A native of Grand Haven, Mich., Bylsma played a total of 12 pro seasons spanning from 1992 to 2004. Bylsma appeared in 429 games in the NHL, reaching the Stanley Cup Final with Anaheim in 2003.
The Firebirds will make their debut in the 2022-23 season, with 36 home games planned.
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