Arizona Coyotes head coach André Tourigny knew when he was hired as the team’s head coach it wasn’t going to be easy. After all, the first-time NHL coach wasn’t exactly taking over a team oozing with Stanley Cup potential. Quite the opposite, in fact, as general manager Bill Armstrong completely overhauled the team’s roster over the summer, acknowledging the team has a long rebuild ahead.
Even so, the Coyotes’ 0-10-1 start to the season took its toll on both Tourigny and the team, which hung in games and played well enough to win against contenders like the Washington Capitals, Carolina Hurricanes, and Florida Panthers, but had yet to break through with a victory.
Saturday night’s 5-4 win over the Seattle Kraken, much like everything else this season, didn’t come without adversity. At least for one night, though, the team’s resilience shined through at the end, and Arizona’s boss behind the bench could relish his first-career NHL victory.
Tourigny Shifts Focus From Himself to the Players
Throughout the team’s start this season, even in the close losses, Tourigny kept his emotions on an even keel, and though he was close on a few occasions to earning his first win as an NHL head coach, he never focused on himself. He often spoke to how disappointed he was for the players after putting in a complete effort, but falling short, and never focused on his own accolades.
Saturday’s win was no different for the 47-year-old Tourigny.
“As a coach, when you like your players, and you like their effort, and you like what they do, they don’t get rewarded and they finish the game, they’re hurt,” he said after the win. “I think it was great today for them to be rewarded.”
The team’s mettle was tested from the very beginning, as the Kraken took a 2-0 lead just 59 seconds into the game, causing goalie Karel Vejmelka — making his second start in as many days — to be pulled and replaced by new-arrival Scott Wedgewood, who was claimed from the New Jersey Devils just days earlier.
Wedgewood filled in admirably, and with Lawson Crouse (2), Phil Kessel, Antoine Roussel and Travis Boyd finally contributing to the team’s biggest offensive outburst all season, the team was able to work its way through adversity, and come out with a win.
Even after Seattle tied the game with just over a minute left in the third, Crouse had the answer, delighting the announced crowd of 15,045, and cementing the team’s first win of the season, and gave Arizona’s new coach a moment he’ll recall for a long time.
“When [Crouse] scored, that’s really where the emotion peaked, and everybody was sort of like, ‘Oh, here we go, now it’s real, we’re there,'” Tourigny said. “That moment was special.”
Was it worth the wait? Well, Tourigny wanted some more time to soak it all in, but he admitted after the game that there’s certainly a sense of relief after the Coyotes finally notched their first victory.
“It took a long time,” he chuckled after the game. “I’m just happy and relieved, finally, that we can move on and talk about something else.”
First-Time NHL Coach, But a Wealth of Hockey Experience
Tourigny has worked in the NHL before, as an assistant coach with both the Colorado Avalanche (2013-15) and Ottawa Senators (2015-16), but his most recent experience came with the Ontario Hockey League’s (OHL) Ottawa 67’s, as both head coach and Vice President of Hockey Operations. He has also been wildly successful with Team Canada’s U20 World Junior Championship program, guiding the team to both gold and silver medals as head coach.
He was named the Canadian Hockey League (CHL) and OHL coach of the year in 2019-20, so simply put, he understands the dynamics of hockey, and what’s expected of him and his team at any given time.
“You cannot feel sorry for yourself, and you cannot, as well, get too high and think, ‘OK now it’s good, we’ve won a game,'” Tourigny said. “So what? We need to be prepared for the next day.”
The effort, at least on Saturday night, paid dividends, and added up to a jublilant post-game clubhouse.
“It was emotional, lots of excitement and a little bit of a relief,” said Crouse, who potted the game winning goal just seconds after Seattle tied the game. “Losing those games was not fun, and a couple of them we thought we were right there.”
Despite the personal accomplishment for Tourigny, he was quick to shift the focus back to the players, and the team. In a season that will have its share of adversity and challenges, the Coyotes’ head coach was able to step back and enjoy the moment as his team finally celebrated its long-awaited victory.
“That was great,” he said. “We believe in the group, we like each other, we have a good brotherhood, but finally we got that win – it’s a relief.”
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A die-hard hockey fan in the desert, and proud Iowa State alum. Detroit Red Wings and Arizona Coyotes contributor for The Hockey Writers.