📝 by Patrick Williams
Someone once summed up what it means to secure an American Hockey League head-coaching job ― you now have one of the top 63 coaching jobs in the entire hockey world.
Colin Chaulk is now a member of that coaching club. Right alongside him is John Anderson, who earned a home in the AHL Hall of Fame for his work behind the bench for the Chicago Wolves.
But the pair barely had time to meet and shake hands before it was time to step behind the bench on Wednesday night. Their Bakersfield Condors had a date with the Abbotsford Canucks.
Chaulk is the newly installed head coach in Bakersfield, a hockey lifer who earned a promotion from an assistant position following Jay Woodcroft’s ascent to the parent Edmonton Oilers on Feb. 10. Assistant coach Dave Manson also departed Bakersfield to work with Woodcroft and the Oilers.
The 45-year-old Chaulk is hungry and ambitious, the type who put in two-plus decades in pro hockey as a player and coach to finally secure this AHL head-coaching job. He scratched out a hockey living by grinding through 15 seasons before moving into the coaching business full-time. Chaulk’s second life in hockey has included logging four seasons as an ECHL head coach, working with head coach Troy Mann’s Belleville Senators in 2019-20 as an assistant, and even spending last season coaching in the Greater Toronto Hockey League.
Most of all, Chaulk is a winner, with six championships in the Central Hockey League, International Hockey League, and United Hockey League from his playing days. Belleville won the North Division title during his season there.
Then there is Anderson, the 64-year-old steady hand brought in to work as an assistant for Chaulk through the rest of this 2021-22 season. He possesses the sort of resume that most people can only dream of in their hockey lives.
Where should one start?
As a player? Four consecutive seasons with 31 or more goals playing for his hometown Toronto Maple Leafs. A stat line that includes 814 NHL regular-season games and 282 goals. Winning the Les Cunningham Award as the AHL’s most valuable player in 1991-92 with the New Haven Nighthawks. Taking a spot as a First Team AHL All-Star that season for his 95-point effort. Earning the Fred T. Hunt Memorial Award that same season for sportsmanship, determination, and dedication to hockey.
Anderson did all of that and more on the ice.
Behind the bench? Anderson has two Calder Cup championships (2002 and 2008), another trip to the Calder Cup Finals (2005), and 10 seasons behind an AHL bench with Chicago. Ranks fifth in AHL history with 424 coaching wins. Owns three AHL division titles. Worked two seasons leading the Atlanta Thrashers followed by another four campaigns as an NHL assistant coach with the Phoenix Coyotes and Minnesota Wild. And won two more Turner Cup championships in 1998 and 2000 while guiding the Wolves during their IHL days.
Anderson’s resume definitely exceeds that one-page recommendation. Yet in his typically self-effacing style he preferred to toss compliments Chaulk’s way.
“One of the things I respected about [Chaulk] is he just didn’t get gifted this job,” Anderson said. “I mean, he worked hard for it. That’s what I appreciate about him as a coach. He’s earned it, and he’s living the dream right now, which is awesome.”
But perhaps Chaulk and Anderson can add a few more lines to their resumes now with the Condors, who continue to look like a very real Calder Cup threat. Bakersfield went toe-to-toe with the league-leading Stockton Heat on Saturday night, scratching out a point in a 4-3 shootout defeat. Using 40 saves in another exceptional night from goaltender Stuart Skinner, the Condors finished their homestand 4-2-0-1 going up against some of the AHL’s top clubs as guests. Tonight’s rematch with the Heat in Stockton will begin a six-game road trip for the Condors (20-11-4-4, .615), who are trying to tighten their grip on third place in the Pacific Division with the Henderson Silver Knights, Colorado Eagles, and Abbotsford all in hot pursuit.
Chaulk and Anderson sat down for an extensive free-flowing chat with TheAHL.com to discuss their recent changes:
CHAULK ON EARNING THE BAKERSFIELD HEAD-COACHING JOB AND HIS CAREER JOURNEY
“Excited and emotional and thankful. Thankful for the opportunity.
“I don’t believe that I would be able to do this job right now if I hadn’t gone through taking my path. [In] the ECHL, for a number of years I had to run the pre-scout, the penalty kill, the power play, the 5-on-5, and had to really prioritize as to what I felt was important. And each year, I got a little bit better at it.”
CHAULK ON THE THREE GAMES BETWEEN HIS PROMOTION AND ANDERSON’S ARRIVAL
“[Goaltending coach Sylvain Rodrigue] was doing the D and helping [on the penalty kill]. [Video coordinator Noah Segall] was helping with the forwards, and he was on the bench.
“Those two guys really, really stepped up when Jay and Dave got the call.”
ANDERSON ON GETTING A PHONE CALL TO COME TO BAKERSFIELD
“I’m thankful for the opportunity. I know for me, I love the game.
“I think we’re going to have a good team, a good year, and a lot of fun together. This is a great opportunity. It’ll take me a while to get moving here, but everybody has been so awesome in this transition for me.”
ANDERSON ON WHETHER HE WAS LOOKING TO RETURN TO HOCKEY AFTER BEING OUT OF THE BUSINESS SINCE 2018
“I mean, if it happened, it happened. If not, I wasn’t losing sleep over it. But you have an opportunity, you take it, and I’m really fortunate to be here.”
CHAULK ON WHEN ANDERSON’S NAME AROSE AS A POSSIBILITY
“My first reaction was surprise. ‘Wow.’ He’s a legend in Chicago.”
(Anderson interjected, “In my own mind!”)
CHAULK ON TALKS WITH ANDERSON HEATING UP
“John and I had a conversation [before] he was officially hired. It was a great conversation. I felt really, really good about it.
“It was an opportunity for both of us that just kind of happened so fast, and [we were] like, ‘Hey, let’s take it and run with it.’”
CHAULK ON BRINGING ANDERSON ONBOARD
“The last couple of days we’ve tried to get each other up to speed.”
(Anderson interjected, “It’s more him getting me up to speed.”)
“It’s sharing things, how he did it in the past, and how we’re doing it now. It’s a conversation of what we tweak, what we change, what we keep going, how we how we did it [the] first part of the season, what tweaks or what layers we want to add.
“It’s been great to try and expedite that process, and we’re excited what’s going to come next.”
ANDERSON ON STILL LEARNING NEARLY 50 YEARS INTO HIS CAREER
“I often say I wish I knew back then [what I know now], because there is just so much you think you know, and you don’t.
“I think that you want to help the young players avoid the stumbling blocks that you had. It’s almost like your kids. You want your kids to have a better life than you did. So for me, I think it’s a blessing to be able to coach young players, and I don’t take it for granted.
“I want to make them better through my mistakes.”
CHAULK ON BLENDING WITH ANDERSON IN A MID-SEASON CHANGE
“I think the biggest thing is I have a relationship, a personal relationship, with all the current players.
“John has a ton of wealth of experience. There’s nothing I can imagine that he hasn’t seen. We were talking about some scheduling tweaks today. I’m sure he’s been through a thousand of those meetings.”
CHAULK ON HIS PREPARATION FOR AN AHL HEAD-COACHING JOB
“I’ve been planning for this since I retired from playing. So each year I’ve been building my drill book.
“When I retired [as a player], I went back, and I went over my minor-league playing career. I went through every coach that I played for, and I wrote down what I liked and what I didn’t like. From Jeff Brubaker to Gary Agnew to Bruce Cassidy to Mark Reeds, I had the pleasure to play with lots of great guys [who] really molded me and helped me as a player.
“And then there were also things I didn’t like, so [being] relatively young as far as nine years removed from the game playing, I try to use those feelings, remember those moments as a player, and try to put myself back into that scenario.
“I’ve been planning for this day. I just didn’t know when it was going to come. You look at guys’ paths, they’re all different. You get an opportunity. Sometimes you don’t.
“Biggest thing is, I feel like I’m overripe, and I feel like I’m ready for it. And I know I have a great support staff, guys [who] have been here already in [Rodrigue and Segall]. [Anderson is] experienced in the league, has been there, has been in multiple organizations, and he’s excited to be back in the game as well.”
CHAULK ON LEARNING FROM JAY WOODCROFT AND TROY MANN
“I think both are very, very similar. They work very hard and are very meticulous, super-organized.
“Troy and Jay, they’re at the rink early. Doesn’t mean that all they do is hockey, but they work. They’re organized. They manage their time. They’re able to present and be polished and professional.
“Troy’s training, just listening to him talk [about] Bruce Boudreau [to] Barry Trotz. So he shared a ton of information, but I also saw him work day-to-day. I know his daily routine like the back of my hand. I learned from him, I took from him, and I brought that to [Bakersfield].
“[With Woodcroft], Jay’s quote when he got the job here as head coach in Bakersfield is that he ‘went to [Todd] McLellan University.’ So I did my research, and I knew I had an idea of how smart [Woodcroft] was. I wanted to experience [it] on a day-to-day basis.
“Those two coaches have been excellent influences on me, too. [Now] I look forward to drawing on John’s experience, his winning pedigree, decision-making, and all those things. I look forward to the second half here.”
ANDERSON ON BEING BACK IN HOCKEY
“I’m very happy to be a part of hockey, and I love the game. I mean, you only know what you miss when you miss it, you know?
“You know what, your first year [out of hockey], you almost need it. I remember [Toronto teammate Ron] Ellis. He played for [12 seasons], then he retired, [and] then came back and played more.
“I asked him why he retired. He said, ‘Sometimes you just get burnt out mentally.’
“It was really good for me to take a break from the game a little bit. I didn’t want it to be [nearly four years].
“But I’m happy to be back in it, and I’m going to enjoy it.”
Patrick Williams has been on the American Hockey League beat for nearly two decades for outlets including NHL.com, Sportsnet, TSN, The Hockey News, SiriusXM NHL Network Radio and SLAM! Sports, and is currently the co-host of The Hockey News On The ‘A’ podcast. He was the recipient of the AHL’s James H. Ellery Memorial Award for his outstanding coverage of the league in 2016.