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[Article] Canucks preview: What makes Rick Tocchet tick? His coaching confidant knows 


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Canucks preview: What makes Rick Tocchet tick? His coaching confidant knows 


'Listen, we had our fun — no doubt about it — a lot of laughs. But he was also good at showing me the ropes in how to be a better pro. He’s one of those guys you want to be around every day.' — Blues coach Craig Berube on former teammate and roommate Rick Tocchet “You learn how competitive he was to become a real good player. I have nothing but great things to say about how he took care of me.”




Rick Tocchet controlled the TV remote.

He watched MTV music videos. He liked Madonna. He learned to cook by picking up culinary tips when his parents regularly dropped off or prepared delicious Italian delights at his Philadelphia home.


This insider information on the Vancouver Canucks’ head coach comes courtesy of his constant confidant Craig Berube. 

The St. Louis Blues’ head coach and Tocchet were NHL teammates and roommates. They were intimidating physical forces for the Flyers on the ice and knew where to grab a good beer off of it. And in a city where rabid fans wildly cheer and jeer their sporting heroes, it was the perfect proving ground for Tocchet to grow his game and make it a lasting part of his life. 


He knew if you win, you own that town.

“Listen, we had our fun — no doubt about it — a lot of laughs,” Berube said in a phone interview. “But he was also good at showing me the ropes in how to be a better pro. He’s one of those guys you want to be around every day. 


“You learn how competitive he was to become a real good player. I have nothing but great things to say about how he took care of me.”


And how about all that food? Tocchet had it figured out.





Born: April 9, 1964, Scarborough, Ont. 


Career regular-season statistics: GP: 1,144. G: 440. A: 512. Pts: 952. PIM: 2,972 


Career playoffs stats: GP: 145. G: 52. A: 60. Pts: 112. PIM: 471 


Career coaching record: G: 474. Wins: 198. Losses: 212. OTL: 64 


Achievements: Three Stanley Cups (1992, 2016, 2017), four All-Star Games


Tocchet was really cooking on, off ice


“His parents were really good cooks and they would come down quite a bit and cook for us,” recalled Berube. “And they would make extra stuff. Watching his dad make the sauce in the morning and his mom cook, we had quite a bit of food because Rick would cook too.”


As the Canucks prepare to open their regular season on Wednesday against the Edmonton Oilers at Rogers Arena, it’s not surprising that Berube believes his best friend can get the Canucks to another competitive level. He knows about Tocchet’s bark and the bite and the devotion and determination to make it happen.


Berube, 57, guided the Blues to a Stanley Cup championship in 2019 by turning around a confusing club that had talent, but was in last place before finding its way. What impact can Tocchet, 59, have to make the playoffs a direction instead of just a dream? By practising what Berube preached.

In that fateful championship season, the Blues were hammered 6-1 in a Dec. 1, 2018, embarrassment by the Tocchet-coached Coyotes in Glendale, Ariz. They looked lost. They were 10-16-1 and last in the Western Conference.


“We went out for beers after and I remember there were a couple of people there, but Craig wasn’t saying much,” recalled Tocchet. “All he said to me was: ‘I’ve got to make these guys understand that if everybody does their roles, we’re a damn good team.’

“And the next thing you know he’s on stage lifting the Stanley Cup. He’s the best. He did a hell of a job of making every one of them important. That’s what I learned from him. How important the top guys and even the fourth line are.


“If we can instil that confidence here — we all say play the right way and do the right things — but you can overcome some deficiencies. If our play without the puck gets better, and we still need to score more, we can stay in more games. If you’re not good without the puck, you have no chance of winning games.”


Leading Flyers in Gordie Howe Hat Tricks


Tocchet is no stranger to success.

He captured the Cup in 1992 as a player with Pittsburgh and two more as a Penguins’ assistant coach in 2016 and 2017. He was no picnic to play against but could also produce. In the 1989-89 season, he led the Flyers in scoring with 96 points (37-59) and piled up a whopping 196 penalty minutes.


He’s in the Flyers’ Hall of Fame and holds the franchise record for Gordie Howe Hat Tricks — goal, assist and fight in a game — with nine. That’s right, nine.


“There was a lot of will in there,” lauded Berube. “He was never satisfied. He knew how to get to the hard areas and not get pushed out of them. He never shied away from getting his nose dirty and you have to stand up for your teammates. He got a lot of respect from everybody. A lot.

“And coaching? Well, he has a world of knowledge and likes to be around the guys.”


How that translates into today’s game with emerging young stars — independent businessmen who want to know what’s in it for them — is Tocchet’s task. The buy-in is vital because in 15 months, the Canucks’ coaching carousel spun with Travis Green, Bruce Boudreau and now Tocchet, who took over the bench on Jan. 22.


For Tocchet to survive the fishbowl existence of a hockey-mad Canadian market — after working as a TNT analyst and previous bench-boss stops in Arizona and Tampa Bay — it’s going to test his mettle in every conceivable way. 

Great advice from The Great One


Before scratching that coaching itch, he reached out to The Great One for sage career advice.


“Wayne Gretzky is a close friend and I picked his brain a lot, and even some players, just to get a feel of Vancouver,” said Tocchet. “The one advantage of being Wayne’s buddy is that he’s a real balanced guy. He doesn’t give you the do-and-don’t, and because he knows me, he just walked me through a lot of things.

“He was very positive. He loves the city, and deep down he might not admit it, but he’d like to see Vancouver do well. That’s what I got out of it.”

Job 1 here was always going to be about the want and the will. 


Tocchet was surprised at the lack of elite club fitness and suspect systems play. There was never enough practice time when he arrived and his “non-negotiable” mantra of expecting push, pace and production proved his desire to make something out of a struggling club lacking an identity.


Tocchet’s office door is always open but the talk is often frank. He’s not afraid to point fingers or name names when addressing individual shortcomings, but will let the player know in advance of what’s coming in media scrums.


Earlier in this pre-season, he took issue with winger Dakota Joshua’s level of fitness and commitment.


“Dakota, he’s gotta pick it up,” warned Tocchet. “I’m not gonna get into some other factors, but he’s gotta try to win a job. The job’s not there, they are guys breathing down that want jobs.”

For Brock Boeser, whose defensive awareness improved under Tocchet, tough talk comes with expectations and serves a purpose.


“He set that tone last year and that accountability part is something that our team needs,” said the winger. “He’s a guy you can go and talk to and he’s all ears and then there’s not a disconnect.


“He’ll let a guy know before he talks to the media and that’s important.”

At the end of last season, Tocchet knew he had to reach players on various levels to ensure they had a summer of training like none other, got back to Vancouver for informal skates well ahead of training camp and were ready to work.


“To me, it’s the level of realizing where we’ve got to go to be a team we want to be,” Tocchet stressed. “It’s our compete level, our fitness and how uncomfortable can we get as a group to achieve what we want.


“That’s my job, to get these guys to buy in and put themselves in a position where they’ve never been before.”


In a season where Quinn Hughes broke his single-season records for assists (67) and points (76) by a club defenceman, and Elias Pettersson hit a career-high 102 points, it’s easy to put the accent on individual achievements as opposed to improving team play. Andrei Kuzmenko’s 39 goals are hard to ignore as well.


‘I want to celebrate the way the team wins’


“I love guys reaching plateaus,” said Tocchet. “But I want to celebrate the way the team wins and what kind of team is sustainable and can we go to the next level? I know the fan base. They love Kuzy and he’s a hell of a talent, but not if we don’t get him playing a team game.


“And he wants to do it, which is a great thing.”


Maybe the best way for Tocchet to get the Canucks to understand how quickly a season can change is to relate that rags-to-riches’ story that Berube and the Blues authored in 2018-19. Only three players — Ryan O’Reilly, Vladimir Tarasenko and David Perron hit the 20-goal mark. So it took a lot more.


“There were things in the locker-room that needed to be fixed first,” admitted Berube. “There were some trades and signings that year and people got their noses a little out of joint. I needed to put them back in place and there were a lot of different ways. I had to punch a wall and you do what you’ve got to do.


“Some guys needed to be put in roles and that was a big part of it. And once that got established, our game changed and so did our systems.”



Ben Kuzma

Published Oct 07, 2023  • Last Updated 11 hours ago 






Edited by RWJC
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Awesome read, thanks for sharing. I honestly can't remember the last time I've been this fascinated by a Canucks coach. It's refreshing to completely understand the reasoning for most of his decisions. If Tochett's able to turn this team into a winner he could become one of Vancouver's most celebrated coaches.

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