WHILE the transition from ice to bench is rarely never going to be an easy one, Sheffield Steelers’ assistant coach Darrell Hay admits he is revelling in his new role.
A leading member of last season’s Championship-winning line-up for Steelers, defenceman Hay was all set to return for a second season on the blue line in South Yorkshire when incoming head coach offered him the chance to come back as his No 2.
The prospect of moving into coaching is something that had long appealed to Hay, a round nine draft pick for the Vancouver Canucks back in 1999 and a veteran of 100-plus AHL games, although he probably wasn’t expecting an opportunity to present itself so soon.
Registered as a player for the 2015-16 campaign, Hay will be called into action by Thompson as and when required but, for the moment, he is happy soaking up as much information from his boss as possible.
“I think I’ve learnt more in the last 25 days than I’ve learnt in 15 years of playing,” said 35-year-old Hay.
“Paul is just a wealth of knowledge and the guys have been very receptive to me being back there and listening to things I have to say and I’m just trying to do what Paul says - create good habits, do things the right way and get rewards for that.
“Sometimes it can be good to hear things from a different voice.”
“It is strange being on the bench at times and I get a little nervous back there, but it’s the same as playing - you get excited and you get involved in the game and you get a feel for what is going on.
“I think the hardest part for me is between the pre-game skate and the game itself. We’ve done all our prep work during the week, we’ve delivered our message to the group and you’re left wondering what to do for the next few hours.”
Like all involved at Steelers, Hay will have emerged from the club’s debut Champions Hockey League better for the experience, with Thompson’s knowledge of European hockey – he spent two years coaching in Sweden and Denmark – proving invaluable.
And Hay, who has also played in Italy, Japan, Norway and the Czech Republic during a 19-year playing career, believes he is learning from one of the best.
“I’m just trying to learn the trade, learn the craft and I kind of feel like an intern right now and I’m getting taught and putting in long hours,” he said.
“I’m lucky that I get to do something I really love and be around a guy like Paul who has a wealth of knowledge and who is willing to teach me.”
“I love learning from Paul and basically be a sponge around him. This is a guy who has coached in so many different places, he has led his country’s national team and that shows the resume he has and the trust that people have in him.
“It’s a real treat to be around him.”