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Coyotes’ Tocchet tells story of hitting Oliver Ekman-Larsson in practice

Arizona Coyotes head coach Rick Tocchet speaks to the media at an introductory press conference at Gila River Arena in Glendale, Ariz. on July 13, 2017. (Matt Layman/Arizona Sports)

The playing careers of Coyotes head coach Rick Tocchet and Arizona defenseman Oliver Ekman-Larsson did not overlap.

Nonetheless, Ekman-Larsson got a taste of what it was like to take a hit from Tocchet, who played 1,144 NHL games from 1984 to 2002 and registered nearly 3,000 penalty minutes.

The story came up while Tocchet was speaking with Elliotte Friedman and Jeff Marek on Sportsnet’s 31 Thoughts: The Podcast. Tocchet was asked about his passion for coaching and whether he could ever give up the game.

“The day I’m done — unless they tell me I can’t coach anymore — it has to be the passion of competition,” Tocchet said. “I love going on the ice early with the young guys and I love actually getting in the drills, like teaching them body position and actually getting into it. I’ve got to be careful, because sometimes I feel like I get in there, like the other day we’re with [Clayton] Keller, I go, ‘You’ve got to get body position! Come in,’ and you actually hit the guy. So you’ve got to be careful, and I know I get that way sometimes. … If I lose that, it would be time for me to go.”

But Keller wasn’t the only one.

“I actually did it to OEL, real quick,” Tocchet said. “I did it last year. I was talking about boxing out. And I go, ‘When a guy does a reverse thing,’ and I actually hit him. And he went down hard. He was mad. I love OEL, and he’ll tell you, he was mad at me. Because he wasn’t really ready for it and I did hit him and he went down hard. Yeah, that can backfire sometimes.”

The story was followed by laughs.

Tocchet’s interview with Sportsnet, which lasted about 35 minutes, touched on a variety of topics, including Tocchet’s playing career. Friedman and Marek also asked him about the differences between winning as a player and winning as a coach. Tocchet knows this subject well, having won a Stanley Cup as a player for the Penguins in 1992, then twice as an assistant coach in Pittsburgh in 2016 and 2017.

“As a coach, it’s being a teacher and building something together,” Tocchet said. “For me, the passion is to come to Arizona, this franchise, and try to make this thing into a winner. This would be the ultimate — it could be, if we ever win a Stanley Cup, it could be the best Stanley Cup I’ve ever had if we could do this.”

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