Just after Kris Knoblauch was hired by the Philadelphia Flyers, another OHL head coach is heading to the professional ranks. The Vegas Golden Knights have hired Rocky Thompson to coach their AHL affiliate, the Chicago Wolves. Thompson is fresh off a Memorial Cup victory with the Windsor Spitfires, and has history in the AHL as an assistant head coach.
A Calgary, Alberta native Thompson was drafted by the Flames in the third round in 1995, but really only ever made an impact with his fists in the professional ranks. Scoring just 69 points in the AHL and being held scoreless in 25 NHL contests, Thompson nevertheless recorded over 2,000 penalty minutes in the two leagues combined and played for more than ten seasons. His head coaching tenure has been a bit more successful, winning 40+ games with the Spitfires in back to back seasons and this year winning the Memorial Cup on home ice.
Thompson took over from San Jose assistant Bob Boughner who has recently been linked to the vacant head coaching jobs in Florida and Buffalo. At just 39-years old, Thompson is on a similar path to helm an NHL bench one day but with a different style that gave him a playing career. Just last week, he spoke with Eric Francis of the Calgary Herald for a story:
You’ve got to understand — I don’t coach this way. That way of playing is gone. My team had the fewest fights in the OHL, and believe it or not, if you ask anybody who knows me, I’ve never been in a fight off the ice.
Indeed his team was filled with skilled players instead of enforcers, littered with first round picks like Mikhail Sergachev and Logan Stanley, and led by a potential top-5 pick in the upcoming draft Gabe Vilardi. In moving to the Chicago Wolves, Vegas has hired a coach that can grow and develop with the franchise. He’ll have to work with Gerard Gallant on instituting organizational systems, but should be somewhat familiar with him. Thompson spent part of the 1999-00 season with the Louisville Panthers of the AHL, of which Gallant was an assistant coach at the time.
Elliotte Friedman of Sportsnet was first to report the hiring.