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BG24 Newscast
September 29, 2023

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BG24 Newscast
September 29, 2023

Coaching carousel

This summer, two former BG hockey players took a pair of pretty important jobs.

The Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins hired Dan Bylsma, BGSU Class of 1992, on Aug. 4 to replace Todd Richards as head coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins’ American Hockey League Affiliate. Two weeks later, Bylsma hired former BG assistant coach Todd Reirden as his bench partner.

Bylsma worked as Richards’ assistant for two years with Wilkes-Barre before Richards took a job with the San Jose Sharks in July.

The new Baby Pens head coach immediately began the search for his own assistant coach, and eventually turned to his alma mater where Reirden had worked since July 2007.

Bylsma said he based his search on four criteria-work ethic, passion, hockey knowledge, and the ability to develop personal relationships.

There are a lot of ups and downs in an AHL season and you need that passion and energy for the game,’ Bylsma said. ‘When you’re genuinely interested in helping players achieve their goals, that rubs off on people and they work harder.’

Bylsma said those four factors made Reirden, a former Falcon teammate, an easy choice.

The two played together at BG for two seasons in 1990-91 and 1991-92, and totaled more than 160 points combined in their respective four-year Falcon careers.

Pittsburgh Penguins fans may notice a coincidence in the years that Bylsma and Reirden played together at the BGSU Ice Arena. They were the same two years that the Penguins won back-to-back Stanley Cups, and also the last.

In June, the Detroit Red Wings defeated Pittsburgh in six games during the Penguins’ first chance at the Cup since the year Bylsma graduated. A week later, the Wilkes-Barre Penguins lost to the Chicago Wolves in six games during the AHL championship.

Reirden had worked as a volunteer assistant to Bylsma during the AHL playoff run, an experience he said helped him earn his current position.

‘Dan had already seen me work for those two months, so that’s how I got hired,’ Reirden said. ‘I had hoped to bring that AHL coaching experience back to Bowling Green’s program. That’s the reason I went down there in the spring, but it didn’t work out that way.’

During the same winter he helped the Baby Penguins reach the Calder Cup Finals, Bylsma watched as Reirden helped to turn around his alma mater’s hockey program. The Falcons won more than twice as many games in 2007-08 as they did the previous season.

The pair’s past coaching success should help them to keep Wilkes-Barre moving in the right direction.

‘My job is outlined,’ Bylsma said. ‘First and foremost, I’m developing players for Pittsburgh. The players I have now are players that will be wearing Pittsburgh Penguin uniforms in the near future.’

Reirden’s life hasn’t stopped spinning since he received word of the hiring on Aug. 18.

On Aug. 20, he was looking for a house in Wilkes-Barre and a school for his five-year-old son, Travis. Then he came back to BG to help freshmen move in on Aug. 25, and the next day he met Bylsma in Pittsburgh for meetings with team officials.

That group included Ray Shero and Michel Therrien, two of the NHL’s most recently successful personnel.

‘Those meetings were all about making sure that our AHL players are playing the same system that theirs are when they go up to the NHL,’ Reirden said.

After a short stay in Wilkes-Barre, Reirden and Bylsma headed to Pittsburgh again on Tuesday to run the team’s rookie camp. On Sept. 16, they’ll help out during Pittsburgh’s full training camp, where Reirden will meet players like Sidney Crosby, and Evgeni Malkin for the first time.

Despite moving onto a bigger opportunity, Reirden said he feels guilty of how he left the Falcons.

‘It’s something that definitely wasn’t planned for,’ Reirden said. ‘I was planning on being in Bowling Green this season. I put a lot of time and effort into that program last year, and with it being my alma mater, I felt really badly about leaving so late.’

Bylsma, too, shared his regret about having to steal Reirden away just before the season starts.

‘In some aspects, I didn’t feel great about the hire because I left Bowling Green without their assistant coach in the middle of August,’ said Bylsma, ‘But at the same time, it says volumes about BG’s hockey program that their players and coaches are out there in the world of professional hockey.’

Falcon head coach Scott Paluch said he hopes to fill Reirden’s position at BG in the next few weeks.

‘Todd did a very nice job in his year here, but people get opportunities and they move on,’ Paluch said. ‘We’ve been very fortunate to attract good people and we’re confident that’ll continue.’

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