NEW head coach Tom Barrasso will command 'instant respect' from Sheffield Steelers' players, according to Elite League rival Patrick Dwyer.
The 53-year-old American was unveiled as the permanent successor to Paul Thompson at the Steelers on Tuesday afternoon, flying in later the same day before taking his first practice session with his new charges on Wednesday.
The former goaltender, a first-round draft pick for the Buffalo Sabres in 1983, went on to become a two-time Stanley Cup champion with the Pittsburgh Penguins as part of a glittering career, before switching to the coaching profession which has seen him work behind the bench in the NHL, the KHL and in Italy.
It was during Barrasso's time, first as a goaltending coach and then by moving up to an assistant role under Paul Maurice at the Carolina Hurricanes, that Dwyer - currently playing for Steelers' Elite League rivals Belfast Giants - worked under the Boston-born former goaltender.
Barrasso left the Hurricanes in 2012 to take up an assistant role in the KHL with Metallurg Magnitogorsk, later switching to rivals Slovan Bratislava before taking on his first head coach role in Italy with Valpellice, switching to Asiago in the AlpsHL in the summer of 2016 where he spent two seasons, winning the league title last time out.
Dwyer remained in Carolina until the end of the 2015 season before spending a year in the Swedish Hockey League with MODO. A spell back in North America in the AHL with the Charlotte Checkers preceded a return to Scandanavia when he signed for SønderjyskE in Denmark's Metal Ligaen.
Dwyer beat Barrasso to his first taste of UK top-flight hockey by signing for Belfast in the summer, but believes his former coach will have no problem having a positive impact in South Yorkshire, the Steelers currently sitting second-bottom in the overall EIHL regular season standings.
"I like Tom Barrasso, he’s a good guy, a really good guy," said Dwyer, "He’s structured, he’s very professional and when you’re in the rink you’re in the rink for business a, nothing else.
"At Carolina he worked with our goalies at first for a couple of years and then he moved into an assistant role. He was very good, very knowledgeable about the game an- you don’t have a playing career like he did if you don’t understand the game.
"He helped all the guys out. He was direct, a very good communicator and was able to get the message that he wanted to get across to guys without any level of confusion. He’s a players' coach, where he lets the players play until he has to come in and stop something and gets guys back on track.
"Sheffield should be very happy with the guy that they have picked. He’s got a big coaching future in front of him - he's won a couple of championships in Italy and around Europe so there should be a high level of excitement in Sheffield with him going in there."
Dwyer believes the appointment of Barrasso by the Steelers is a major coup.
"The thing about how Tom works, is that he gives you the respect as a player but commands that respect in return and that’s how it should be," added Dwyer, who made over 370 NHL appearances.
"It was a big story this morning when I woke up and saw that Tom was going into Sheffield. I'd lost track a bit of where Tom had gone after he’d been over to the KHL, but this is a good move for him.
"He’s put in his work as a head coach around Europe and this will be a more high-profile franchise than he’s been with for the last couple of years. So it is good for Tom and I think Sheffield will be very happy with it. Tom is going to enjoy this league."