Coach

 

(Brent Thompson/Photo: Dennis Sievers)

The release of assistant coaches Scott Allen and Dean Chynoweth by the Islanders has led to speculation that Bridgeport Sound Tigers head coach Brent Thompson will be joining Jack Capuano and Doug Weight behind the teams bench. I hope this is not the case for three very good reasons. First, I think that coach Capuano should be allowed to select his own assistants and I can’t think of any successful organization that doesn’t allow their head coach to do the same. Secondly, as remarkable a job as coach Thompson has done in Bridgeport, he has not finished his work here. Lastly, I am a selfish Sound Tigers fan and don’t want to lose him. (Okay, maybe that’s only two good reasons.)

Coach Thompson, like many others, began his coaching career after years of playing the game himself. Selected 34th overall by the LA Kings in the 1989 entry-level draft, Thompson (‘Tommer’, his ice name) played 121 games in the NHL with the Kings and Winnipeg Jets organizations. He also played for six different AHL teams in his 14 years as a player before beginning his career as a coach.

After serving four years as an assistant coach with the Peoria Rivermen in the AHL, he was given the head coaching position with the Alaska Aces of the ECHL. In the 2009-10 season, his first as head coach, the Aces won their division and lost in the first round of the playoffs. His second year in Alaska the team once again won their division. This time they didn’t lose in the first round, or the next and finished the season as league champions and winners of the ECHL’s Kelly Cup. Coach Thompson was winner of the John Brophy Award as the ECHL’s Coach Of The Year that season, his last in the ECHL, and moved up to the AHL a proven winner.

When he came to Bridgeport to take over leadership of the Sound Tigers he was returning to the state where some ten years earlier he had won another award. After the 1998-09 season as a player for the Hartford Wolfpack, ‘Tommer” received the AHL’s Yanick Dupre Memorial Award as ‘man of the year for service to his local community.’  A winner once again.

While what he had accomplished in Alaska was noteworthy, what he was able do do in his first year as head coach in the AHL was remarkable. In Alaska, Thompson was taking over a team that had been successful the year before. In Bridgeport he was to lead a team that had finished last in their division, last in their conference and 29th of 30 teams in entire league. He was also asked to do this without an ECHL affiliate to draw talent from when the inevitable injuries and call-ups came.

Once again he showed himself a winner by bring Bridgeport its first division championship in ten years. Like Alaska, however, the Tigers would lose in the opening round of the playoffs. Coach doesn't like to lose, he actually hates to lose and the season left a bitter taste in his mouth.

To a man the players on this years team will tell you that they have never worked so hard in practice. To a man the players will tell you how much they enjoyed their time in Bridgeport. To a man they will tell you the have never played on a team with so much heart and character. To a man they will tell you how disappointed they were with how the season ended.

Coach taught them and drove them to work hard and push harder. He strengthened their hearts and developed their character. He did this with every player on the team. He and the team ended the season winners, winners to a man.

- Mike Flannery

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