The summer of change for the Abbotsford Heat continued Thursday as another piece of the puzzle fell into place.
The Calgary Flames, NHL parent club of the Abbotsford AHL franchise, announced Troy Ward as the new head coach of the Heat, a position that stood vacant for 17 days after Jim Playfair handed in his resignation and took an associate coaching position with the Phoenix Coyotes.
"It's an honour," Ward said in a phone interview.
"As you climb the mountain in coaching, or whatever your field of work is, it's always nice to be rewarded for your hard work. It's an exciting day."
Ward, a former assistant coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins from 1997 to 2000, joined the Heat and the Flames organization last summer after the departure of Jared Bednar, who took over the head coaching duties with the Peoria Rivermen.
With the exodus of Playfair, Bednar and Steve O'Rourke - now the head coach and general manager of the BCHL's Langley Rivermen - Ward will begin the process of finding new assistants.
He will meet with Flames GM Jay Feaster and his staff over the next five to six days to discuss who will help man the Heat bench next season.
And it already appears as though off-season changes will bring about much the same on the ice as well.
Expect the 2011/12 version of the Heat will play a more aggressive, puck possession style of hockey compared to the last two years, said Ward.
However some things, like trying to stay out of the penalty box, which the Heat managed to accomplish more than in their inaugural campaign, will stay the same.
"We're going to be disciplined. I'd say that's been a trademark of my teams," said Ward.
"We're going be more of a puck pursuit team. My emphasis is on always playing with the puck and keeping the puck. I don't like to give it up as coach and if we do give it up, we're going to be very aggressive in our posture as to how we would get it back."
In other words, the best defence is a good offence.
That's a concept Ward believes has been lost on young players first in the post-lockout era.
"The hardest part of being a pro hockey player now is the offensive side of the game," he said.
"It's changed. It used to be you had to be defensively hard. We have to be accountable defensively when we don't have the puck, but the bottom line is I'm going to be an offensively hard coach.
"That's a different game with kids today than it used to be maybe five, eight, 10 years ago."
More emphasis on scoring will certainly go a long way in helping the Heat get back to the Calder Cup playoffs, which the club failed to do this past season in large part because goals for - a league-worst 186 - were a rarity.
Injuries, youthful inexperience, bad luck, and just not having the weaponry to score four or five goals a night drastically hampered the Heat, especially during the stretch drive.
"A lot of the time you have to deal with the cards you're given," Ward said.
"Last year our team was young out of the gate, a bit inexperienced. Going into the season, I don't think we really knew what to expect, we just knew we were going to make a lot of mistakes."
Along with the new job title comes the task of filling some pretty big shoes.
Ward is now the one who answers to everything - the big wigs in both the Flames and Heat's front offices, the media and, finally, the fans.
"Truly the hockey fan that likes to watch a good game of hockey and see it played at a hard pace . . . I found those fans to be [at games] on a night in and night out basis," said Ward.
"I respect how people just come out and support the game."