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New Coyotes coach Tocchet thrilled to return to ‘exciting hockey market’

Pittsburgh Penguins assistant coach Rick Tocchet talks with linesman Steve Barton (59) during the third period in Game one of a first-round NHL hockey playoff series against the Columbus Blue Jackets in Pittsburgh, Wednesday, April 12, 2017. The Penguins won 3-1. (AP Photo/Gene J. Puskar)

PHOENIX — Rick Tocchet won two Stanley Cups and coached Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin the past three seasons in Pittsburgh. So why would he leave one of the most successful franchises of the past decade to head a rebuilding squad?

“It’s an exciting hockey market,” Tocchet said about Arizona. “It’s a little bit underrated because of the situation they’ve been put in, but I think there is a lot of value.”

Tocchet is heading back to the Valley for his third job with the Coyotes organization, this time as head coach. He played for the team from 1997-2000, amassing 130 points in 213 games. He was an assistant on the Coyotes staff under Wayne Gretzky.

Tocchet’s most recent stint in Arizona did not end on positive terms as he was under investigation for financing a national gambling organization. General Manager John Chayka took that into consideration, he said, but it did not sway him away from hiring Tocchet.

“He is a man of character and integrity,” Chayka said. “Any issues in the past are in the past and it certainly didn’t raise any red flags for us whatsoever.”

From his years in Arizona as a player and assistant, he developed a strong understanding of the area and is excited to work in a city that he feels has so much potential to become a strong hockey market.

Some in the media have questioned if former coach Dave Tippett connected well enough with younger players. Tocchet said that he loves coaching less-experienced players because they want to learn. He has a priority in mind when selecting his assistants.

“I want guys who constantly think about the way the game is growing,” Tocchet said. “They have to be able to deal with the younger mind.”

While Tocchet worked with talented veteran forwards in Pittsburgh, he still coached young talent like Jake Guentzel. The Coyotes have plenty of young forwards that are expected to make the upcoming roster, and it is an aspect of the team Tocchet likes.

Tocchet has already spoken with Max Domi, and Domi said he was eager to start the new season. Tocchet showed how he has an understanding of young, eager players by telling Domi that he liked the excitement, but it is a long process and “we’re not going to win in September,” he said Tuesday.

Tocchet looks forward to high expectations.

“I want these players to have pressure on them, but in a good way, he said. “We’ll handle it internally our way.”

Even though the team will be one of the youngest in the league, Tocchet will not be a huge presence in the locker room.

“I want to stay out of their way,” Tocchet said. “It’s their room, their team. I’m there to help them … I don’t want to be the guy that’s in the room all the time. I want these guys to be self-starters.”

Tocchet will make his Coyotes’ head coaching debut when the team travels to Anaheim on October 5 to take on the Ducks.

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