How Bruce Cassidy describes his coaching past after revelations about NHL peers

Matt Kalman
December 05, 2019 - 3:22 pm

Bruce Cassidy has been a coach in professional hockey from the time he was 31 years old.

After playing pro from the mid-80s through the late ‘90s he got behind the bench with the Jacksonville Lizard Kings of the ECHL in 1996 and has hardly spent much time anywhere but behind a bench since then.

Coaching tactics, styles and personalities have changed over the years. And as we’ve recently found out, some coaches have crossed the line. The revelations about Mike Babcock, Bill Peters and Marc Crawford crossing the line in terms of physical and mental abuse, and derogatory comments have been shocking, and they may not be the last we here about coaches going too far.

 In a brief chat this week with WEEI.com, the Bruins coach said he was confident looking back at his more than two decades in coaching he’s never done anything that would be deemed inappropriate in the frame of reference of modern standards or in the light of the standards of the past.

That doesn’t mean he’s tread lightly with players when he’s felt the need to motivate.

“Never when it comes to you know I’ll say inappropriate racial [comments>. I’ve never put my hands on a player. I shouldn’t say that, I’ve given players hugs in the past that have had a tough day. But I would call that harmless,” he said. “You know you always wonder what’s the next thing that would get looked into. I think I would be considered a demanding coach, but fair. The players would have to answer that. But I don’t think it has ever been in the form of name calling or I guess what you would call crossing the line. It’s more of a challenge to play better, and sometimes they don’t always like the honest part of it, but I don’t think that’s crossing the line.”

After playing from 1990 to 2003, Bruins assistant coach Joe Sacco got into coaching in 2005 and got his first head coaching job with Colorado when he was just 40. Like Cassidy, he’s certain he never crossed any lines. Throughout his playing career he had coaches with different styles, and learned the proper way a coach should conduct himself.

“I think you try to as a coach, you’re always trying to get people to play hard and do those things,” Sacco said. “But there’s obviously a respect factor that’s involved in there and you want to make sure your players are treated fairly, and they deserve the same respect that you would want in return. So I think that you just try to live by that standard, I think then it’s usually OK.”

That standard has changed over the years, and Cassidy has changed with it. He’s made alterations to the way he interacts with some players, and been more conscious of his language.

“Now, have I tempered some of my bluntness? Of course. It’s still honest, but less blunt,” he said. “For me and a lot of coaches, I think especially the older guys, probably profanity is something I try to work on every day. … I don’t know that that’s crossing the line, it’s just controlling some of your more colorful language. And being on “Behind the B” all the time and having cameras in there has probably helped me be a little better with F-bombs, but I’m still working on that part of it.”

Geoff’s big chance

The Calgary Flames are moving forward in the aftermath of the Peters scandal with former Bruins coach Geoff Ward as their interim head coach. Ward was on Claude Julien’s staff 2007-2014 before he left to coach in Germany for one season.

Bruins captain Zdeno Chara knew Ward had a future as a head coach because of a couple of the coach’s strengths.

“Creativity. He would make up drills, he would just be creative,” Chara told WEEI.com. “He would be able to read the opposition’s tactics or system, frankly after maybe the first period. Like he was very quick on things.”

Chara also said that Ward’s background as a teacher probably helps him.

Moore’s back

The Bruins continue to get injured players back with the return of John Moore on Thursday from offseason shoulder surgery. The game at TD Garden vs. the Chicago Blackhawks would be Moore’s first of the season. …

Brett Ritchie is healthy enough to play but the Bruins are taking a more cautious approach with him, so he remained scratched. …

After a scheduled maintenance day, Patrice Bergeron skated on his own before the Bruins’ optional morning skate Thursday. The Blackhawks game would be Bergeron’s sixth straight missed game with his lower-body injury.

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