GLENDALE, Ariz. – After spending the last 19 years as a professional hockey player, John Slaney got his first taste of an NHL training camp as a coach Saturday.

Slaney stood behind the bench during the Phoenix Coyotes’ first intrasquad scrimmage at Jobing.Com Arena.

“It’s way different,” he said. “Every time I came to training camp I was always player.”

Slaney, 39, will coach the defensemen while serving as an assistant coach to new Portland Pirates head coach Ray Edwards.

“It’s different when you’ve played to go behind the bench,” Edwards said. “There’s a lot of things going on.

“It’s really good he gets behind the bench in camp before we get to Portland when it counts for real.”

It’s the fifth Phoenix training camp for Edwards, who is in his second full season as an AHL coach.

“I really know a lot of these kids, where (Slaney) is just starting to have relationships with them,” Edwards said. “It’s good for him to get out there and meet some of these kids.”

Slaney played 55 games for the Coyotes during the 1997-98 season, but it’s a much different organization now.

“It’s a first-class organization,” he said. “They want to do what is best for their players and they expect the best from their players, also.”

The Coyotes became the parent club of the Pirates in June after the Buffalo Sabres returned their minor league operations to Rochester, N.Y., following three seasons in Portland.

While at training camp, Slaney is trying to get a handle on how the team does business at the defensive end of the ice.

“I’m really happy to work with (Phoenix assistant coach) Jimmy Playfair to find out what the Coyotes do so I can teach the kids down below what to expect if they get called up,” said Slaney, who helped the Philadelphia Phantoms win the AHL Calder Cup in 2005.

Slaney also played for the Pirates in the 1993-94 season when they won the Calder Cup in their inaugural season. But he spent most of that season with the Washington Capitals and didn’t participate in the AHL playoffs.

Before joining the coaching ranks this season, Slaney, a native of St. John’s, Newfoundland, spent the previous four seasons playing for teams in Germany and the Czech Republic.

“Going from the North American league to the German league and the Czech league, it was three different kinds of hockey,” Slaney said. “It was real interesting to see how (the Europeans) get ready for games, pregame skates and all those different situations.”

NOTES: Fifty-nine players divided into three groups were on the ice for the Coyotes’ first day of practice. “This is probably the deepest camp, as far as talentwise, that I’ve seen in the three years that I’ve been here,” Phoenix Coach Dave Tippett said. “We’re going to have some tough decisions to make. We’ve got some decent veterans, but we’ve got some young players who will really push hard for jobs, and that’s going to make us a better organization.”

The Coyotes are expected to make their first big cut in their roster Thursday following the team’s first three exhibition games. “Between rookie camp and main camp, we would have seen everyone play in a game,” said Brad Telving, vice president of hockey operations and assistant general manager. “There’s a difference between practice and games. It’s kind of foolish to invite all these guys to camp and cut them before we see them play.” The Pirates’ coaching staff is expected to return to Maine on Thursday.

Staff Writer Paul Betit can be contacted at 791-6424 or at:

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