Coyotes name longtime player Rick Tocchet as new coach

Rick Tocchet, who played three seasons with the Coyotes during an 18-year NHL career, is returning to the franchise as the new head coach.

"I'm extremely happy to be back with the Coyotes organization," Tocchet said in a statement released by the team Tuesday. "I loved playing and coaching here in the Valley and have always considered Arizona my home. We have a great young team with a ton of talent and I'm excited about leading this group of players. I'd like to thank Mr. [Andrew] Barroway and John Chayka for this incredible opportunity. I can't wait to get started."

Tocchet, 53, was an assistant with the Pittsburgh Penguins the past three seasons, during which time the team won back-to-back Stanley Cup championships. He previously served as an assistant with the Coyotes during the 2005-06 season under coach Wayne Gretzky.

Chayka, the team's general manager, said Tocchet's controversial departure from his previous Coyotes coaching job did not impede the decision to hire him.

"Rick was the best candidate by a wide margin," Chayka said Tuesday.

Tocchet was on a leave of absence from his Coyotes job in 2007 when he pleaded guilty in New Jersey to promoting gambling and conspiracy to promote gambling. He was sentenced to two years' probation. NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said an investigation showed Tocchet's involvement in gambling was not as serious as first thought and he was suspended for three months.

There was no evidence Tocchet ever bet on hockey games.

"He's a man of character and integrity," Chayka said. "Any issues in the past are in the past. It didn't raise any red flags for us whatsoever."

Tocchet was also an assistant with the Tampa Bay Lightning and later their head coach from 2008-10.

He replaces Dave Tippett, who parted ways with the Coyotes after an eight-year run. After making the playoffs in Tippett's first three years, the Coyotes missed out the next five, and only the Colorado Avalanche and Vancouver Canucks had worse records last season.

Tocchet was a four-time All-Star in a career that spanned three decades (1984-2002). Tocchet played for six teams and won a Stanley Cup as a member of the Penguins in 1992. He finished with 440 goals and 512 assists in 1,144 games.

"He's one of the best communicators I've come across not only in hockey, but probably professionally as well," Chakya said. "... I think he can just relate to the players. He's very firm. He can motivate. He can be aggressive in his approach, but he can also be that big brother kind of approach with our young players and I think that's going to be helpful moving forward."

Chakya said Tocchet has a clear idea of the style he wants his team to play.

"He wants to play fast. He wants to play aggressive. He wants to dictate time and space," Chakya said.

"We had a lot of coaches come through. They will all say something similar. I think he had a real plan of how to do it. He had concrete examples of what that means based off his time in Pittsburgh and some more ideas of what he's maybe looking to do moving forward."

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.