Heat’s Playfair ready to begin next chapter

by Lindsay Kramer || NHL.com

Lindsay Kramer, the AHL correspondent for NHL.com, profiles an up-and-coming player each Monday during the season, and his AHL notebook appears each Thursday on NHL.com.

playfairOn June 5, Calgary named Jim Playfair head coach of the Abbotsford Heat, its new affiliate that will join the American Hockey League in 2009-10.

Playfair came to town for a get-to-know-you day, met the front office and local media, shook hands and smiled a lot. He could have easily scooted out the next day and gone back to Calgary, where he had been a Flames assistant coach, to rejoin his family and continue his summer vacation.

But the next day the Heat had a little open house going on, where fans could come in, check out the new building and choose their seats. So Playfair decided to hang around for part of that promotion to let prospective ticket-buyers know he stands behind the product in which they are investing.

"It was a neat process to see the excitement in the community," Playfair said. "From day one, we’re in this together. That’s all part of the challenge. By doing this right the first time, you can set up the future of the franchise for years to come. When it’s brand new, that’s what makes it neat."

It figures that Playfair would bring such enthusiasm to the marketing side of the organization. New challenges tend to stir that emotion in him, and "Mr. Ticketmaster" is one of the few titles he hasn’t worn during his long stretch with the Flames.

Playfair’s appointment as head coach of Abbotsford completes a strange and circular career path with the Flames. Playfair has been in the organization since he was named head coach of the Saint John Flames on Aug. 10, 2000. He spent three seasons in that position, and during the 2000-01 season, he took Saint John to the Calder Cup.

Playfair joined Calgary in January 2003 as an assistant coach, a position he held until being named the Flames’ head coach for the 2006-07 season. Since 2007, Playfair has held the position of associate coach with the Flames.

While going to the AHL for a second time in the same organization might seem like a backwards step, Playfair argues differently. He said he sees himself as a head coach, and being slotted at that level in the AHL can only help.

"I think if you’re a good enough coach and someone who can help the organization win, they are going to come find you. This is strictly about becoming a head coach again, getting the details in place of becoming a head coach again," said Playfair, 45. "You can lose some of that as an assistant coach. That’s just the whole structure of managing the practice, managing the dressing room, managing the bench. The whole rhythm of your decision-making goes into hibernation when you are an assistant coach."

And how long might it take for Playfair to find the right beat as the bench boss again?

"It better take one period," he joked. "It’s not a time frame issue. It’s more an issue of getting everything up and running again."