Just as the Colorado Avalanche were set to introduce their seventh head coach in franchise history Wednesday, three men huddled together for an obligatory media photo.
Team president Josh Kroenke, general manager Joe Sakic and new head man Jared Bednar shuffled toward each other in front of the Avalanche backdrop. Kroenke smiled as the cameras clicked. Sakic smirked. In the middle of the two men, Bednar stood there with a stoic look on his face.
As the questions came, we learned a little bit about the style — fast and agressive — Bednar wants to play. We also learned a little how he aims to improve the Avalanche’s pitiful possession numbers.
But perhaps what was most clear about Bednar, who at 44 was handed his first NHL job after bouncing around hockey’s minor leagues since 1993 as a player and coach, was that he’s not simply satisfied by being here.
“I think getting here is certainly achieving something,” Bednar said matter-of-factly, when asked about his meandering journey to the NHL. “But I think it’s what you do when you’re here.”
The Colorado Avalanche’s new head coach paid his dues. A quick look at his credentials makes that clear enough.
Before going into coaching, Bednar spent nine seasons as a player. He had a reputation as a hard-hitting defenseman. He logged six seasons in the ECHL, three in the AHL and one in the AHL.
Lots of small cities, few fans.
When his playing career was over, Bednar got into coaching as an assistant with the South Carolina Stingrays in the ECHL. He worked his way up to head coach there by 2007, and in 2009 he won an ECHL title with them.
Bednar made the jump to the AHL in 2009. He got his first AHL head coaching gig with the Springfield Falcons, the Columbus Blue Jackets’ affiliate, in 2014.
Last year, he led the Blue Jackets’ new AHL affiliate, the Lake Erie Monsters, to a 97-point season and a championship. The Monsters went 15-2 in the playoffs to win the Calder Cup with ease.
Bednar parlayed that success — plus a connection to Avalanche assistant general manager Chris MacFarland, who previously worked in Columbus — into the Avalanche’s head coaching job.
On Wednesday, Bednar sounded like a man ready to get to work. Colorado’s training camp begins Sept. 15, and team’s first game against the Stars is Oct. 15. There’s not much time now. Former head coach Patrick Roy’s abrupt resignation on Aug. 11 didn’t allow for much.
Bednar didn’t take much time to stop and smell the roses as he was introduced. There are players to call, he said. A system to implement.
“I still have a lot of work and catching up to do,” he said.
Becoming an NHL coach was a long time coming. But Bednar didn’t sound the least bit satisfied Wednesday.