Humble beginnings for Amerks’ Appert

Photo: Bill Wippert

by Suzie Cool | AHL On The Beat

The true beauty of the unknown is that there is so many possibilities as to what could be.

Remember when we told you that a few months back?

To some, it probably seems like 10 years ago at this point because the quarantine lifestyle seems to have put us all into a time warp where time has basically stood still for the last year. And to be honest, time still doesn’t feel very real even though things are slowly on their way back to normalcy.

One of those normalcies being that the Rochester Americans, nearly a full year after their last game, have finally kicked off their 65th season in the American Hockey League. An unknown circumstance that, five months ago, didn’t look very likely. However, here we are now following a three-week training camp and three games into the 2020-21 campaign under the helm of new Amerks head coach Seth Appert.

One of those other really important things we told you a while back: stop fearing change. That change being Appert, who is in his first year of coaching at the professional level with Rochester after 20 years’ worth of head coaching experience in the college ranks.

He’s coached four Hobey Baker finalists and has helped 23 players graduate to play in the NHL. And now adding to the list, he most recently made his professional coaching debut with the Amerks on Feb. 5 when they hosted the Utica Comets for the first game in the Flower City in 331 days.

When we asked him how excited he was for puck drop on that first game of the season, well, his answer wasn’t exactly what you would think.

“I’m really looking forward to it but, to be perfectly honest, it doesn’t feel any different than any other game that I’ve coached.”

That’s the exact mindset that Appert came to Rochester with.

It’s simple, he knows his role and he knows it well. He’s a human first, a coach second and he’s here to develop the best talent possible for the Buffalo Sabres organization similar to how he helped develop the best talent in the entire country while with USA Hockey’s National Team Development program.

So, prior to that first puck drop, it’s not surprising that Appert was as humble as they could come, mentioning how this night wasn’t about his professional coaching debut but rather about the product that we would see out on the ice.

“I’ve never looked at things as how they affect me”, said Appert, the 33rd head coach in franchise history. “I’ve always looked at things as how they affect the group. This is about our group and this is our first game together as a team.

“So, for me, I don’t look at it as my first game; I look at it as our first opportunity together to start building what we want to build.”

Photo: Dave Reginek/Getty Images

Since that opening night, three games have passed with Appert behind the bench for the Amerks and they’ve started off the 2020-21 season strong, going 2-1-0-0 and coming off a 7-3 win over the Cleveland Monsters on Friday. Through those first three games, Rochester has tallied 13 goals and have gone 5-for-11 on the power-play, which is tops in the league despite a roster that changes almost every single day.

Through it all, Appert remains modest even after the club’s first win of the year, a 4-3 overtime victory over the Syracuse Crunch on Feb. 10.

“I don’t look at things, and I know I’ve said this before, as how they affect me. This isn’t my first win, but more importantly, our first win as a coaching staff together. This is our first win as a selective group and I really like what our guys wants to be about.”

Although Appert has finally reached the professional level when it comes to coaching, he truly doesn’t feel as if his role changed in the slightest. Even with experience at the international level with Team USA’s junior and senior national teams, he’ll be the first to admit that his mindset has always been the same.

With that being said, the level of achievement that Appert has reached doesn’t go unnoticed.

“American League head jobs, NHL head jobs, they’re the most coveted hockey jobs in the world and I’m certainly aware of that. I’m certainly grateful for the opportunity, especially with an organization with the rich history that Rochester has.”

He’s already dealt with some of the best talent in the world and now Appert has the chance to focus on a select group of players within a professional franchise and try to get them to that next level – the National Hockey League.

No matter what, that’s Appert’s sole focus.

“I’m proud of this opportunity and I’m thankful for this opportunity but, again, my focus is going to be on my team.”

Whether it’s his first game behind the bench or his last, Appert’s mindset will never change. He’s a human first, a coach second and he’s here to help his players reach that next level whether he’s on the bench at the Blue Cross Arena or elsewhere.