With the NHL lockout delaying the start of training camp and threatening the Oct. 11 start of the regular season, Capitals coach Adam Oates took the time to sit down for an exclusive interview with CSNWashington.com Insider Chuck Gormley.In Part Three, Oates discusses the transformation of Washington into a hockey market, his relationships with former coaches and how those will shape his relationship with his current players. Tomorrow: Connecting with Alex Ovechkin To read Part One, click here. To read Part Two click here.
CSN: When you arrived in Washington in 1997 and the Caps went to the Finals, did you see a growth in fans?
Adam Oates: No. I didnt see it. Not like it is now.
Why not, in your opinion?
I think whats really helped the franchise is building this facility Kettler Capitals Iceplex here. Obviously, coming in last actually 28th in 2003-04 and getting Ovi Alex Ovechkin with the dynamic personality he has and the players he brought around him with Nick Backstrom and Mike Green. And changing the logo back to the red and the power that comes along with Ted Leonsis and building the arena downtown and remodeling it. All that kind of stuff has really helped make the Capitals a well-liked team.
Treating everything first class
Yes. Its not that we werent treated first class, but Piney Orchard was not the environment. The environment is way more top-notch now. At least I feel it is. The culture has changed. Its always been Redskins here. Its always been Orioles here. The Ravens have fought that by coming here, right? By being out there in Piney Orchard the fans didnt get expose to us. And look at the timing. Look at Pittsburgh. They get Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin and theyre back on the map. You get Ovechkin and Greenie and Nick and all of a sudden youre on the map. And Ovi wins the scoring title and his personality is huge. I personally think going back to the red was catchy. It was a lot of things.
Lets talk about some of the coaches youve had over the years. Are there any that made you see the game a different way? No question. I had a lot of coaches and you take something from every coach. There were probably some things from every coach I didnt like, too. I guess since this is my first head coaching job, I want to form my own style. I want to coach the way I wanted to be coached as a player.
Did you butt heads with coaches?
Sure, at times. Everybody does. I butted heads but I was also a guy who showed up for work. I wanted responsibility, I wanted to do more, I wanted to earn my salary. If a guy could prove himself to me Id listen.
Did you have any coaches that gave you a say in how things were done on the ice?
You didnt have those kinds of decisions in my generation. You showed up for work. If you got called in here to a coachs office it was usually bad news.
Has that changed?
Yeah. Some guys dont believe in that kind of open communication. Everybody skins a cat their own way. I had a coach who was obviously a smart man, but I could not produce for him. I showed up for work and I didnt want to be belittled.
Do you feel there has to be mutual respect between a coach and player?
I do. For me, yes.
Why is that important?
Because Im not going to be a hypocrite as a coach for what I wanted as a player. No way.
Whats the thing you wanted most from a coach?
Communication. Coach me. I wanted more. My first coaching job in Tampa, an assistant coach for Rick Tocchet, Marty St. Louis came in every day. I felt I could talk to him man-to-man and go out on the ice right afer that and coach him. I did. Look at Joe Girardi, manages the Yanks. He played with Derek Jeter and now he manages him. Somewhere along the line youve got to get that respect, because if you played with a guy that means you went out to dinner with that guy. Now you flip hats and are you a good enough communicator that Derek Jeter can handle that.
You and Jason Chimera were teammates, right?
Yeah, and you have to bridge that gap. When I played with Chimmer I was old and he was young. Now hes one of the older guys. Everybody has different stages in his career. I remember rooming with Jeff Halpern. I got benched one night at the end of my career and he was a first-year pro and I remember saying, Dont worry, youll be old like me one day. I never thought it would happen to me, either. So at the end o the day its about communication and I personally think Ill do OK because I wore every hat. I was a young guy, I was a healthy scratch, I did get benched, I did get sent to the minors, I did get traded, I did have success, I did lose, I did win.
Do you think that carries weight with players, having played the game?
I think it opens the door, but that door shuts fast if you dont know how to back it up. Im sure youve heard a lot of guys who could play the game but cant communicate it. I worked with Devils head coach Pete DeBoer last year. He didnt play in the NHL but he was a great communicator. You get respect a lot of different ways. Playing in the NHL opens the door but I have to coach them.