BY MIKE MASTOVICH
Another former Johnstown Chiefs star advanced to the National Hockey League. For the second time.
The New York Islanders named Scott Gordon as head coach Tuesday night.
He replaced Ted Nolan, who split with the team on July 14.
“Scott has been one of the top up-and-coming coaches in hockey and with good reason,” Islanders General Manager Garth Snow said of Gordon, who was AHL Coach of the Year with Boston’s affiliate in Providence, R.I. “Through his work in the minor leagues and most recently with Providence over the last eight years, he has gained an impeccable reputation.”
Gordon played for the 1988-89 Chiefs in the East Coast Hockey League. He earned ECHL Goaltender of the Year honors and led the Chiefs to the Riley Cup finals, where Johnstown lost in seven games to Carolina.
Gordon, 45, emerged as Snow’s choice and agreed to a multiyear deal with the team.
Under Gordon, the Providence Bruins reached the second round of the Calder Cup playoffs last season. His ability to mold young talent was a factor in Gordon’s landing the head job despite the availability of established NHL coaches such as John Tortorella, Joel Quenneville, Bob Hartley, Paul Maurice and Mike Sullivan, who all reportedly interviewed for the post.
Nolan reportedly didn’t buy into the Islanders’ “youth movement.” Gordon is New York’s fifth coach in six seasons and the first hired by Snow since the former Islanders goalie became GM before the 2006-07 season.
“It’s great seeing a guy form the East Coast League work his way the whole way up,” said former Chiefs GM and coach Toby O’Brien, now a scout in the Islanders system. “It’s an opportunity that’s well-deserved.”
In past interviews, Gordon credited his time spent with the Chiefs as a springboard to future success. Initially, the goalie was hesitant to accept a demotion to Johnstown and even considered stepping away from the sport.
“I don’t know if I’d still be in hockey if I didn’t go to Johnstown the year that I went,” Gordon said during an April interview. “That rejuvenated my career. I kept playing. If I don’t go down there and play and get some confidence and develop my style, I certainly don’t go on and play the next year. At the end of the day I was in the NHL and that changed everything.”
Gordon went 18-9-3 for the Chiefs during the inaugural season in the five-team East Coast Hockey League. He became the first ECHL “graduate” to advance to the NHL as a player. Gordon joined the Quebec Nordiques on Jan. 30, 1990.
He played on the 1992 U.S. Olympic Team and returned to the ECHL with Nashville (1992-93) and Knoxville (1993-94). Gordon took over as head coach of the former Roanoke Express during the 1998-99 ECHL season.
Gordon is the third former ECHL coach who is currently an NHL head coach. Former Johnstown Jets player Bruce Boudreau (Washington Capitals) and Peter Laviolette (Carolina Hurricanes) are the others. Boudreau, the reigning NHL Coach of the Year, led the ECHL Mississippi Sea Wolves to a Kelly Cup. Laviolette, a Stanley Cup winner with the ’Canes, coached the Wheeling Nailers.