July 16, 2011

The next rung is Portland

The new coach of the Pirates is a worker who continues to pay his dues while climbing the pro hockey ladder.

By Rachel Lenzi rlenzi@mainetoday.com
Staff Writer

(Continued from page 1)

click image to enlarge

Ray Edwards has gone through pro hockey’s hinterlands, and now is in a traditional market as the Pirates’ coach.

John Patriquin/Staff Photographer

Each time he sold another ticket or boarded the bus for another ECHL town, Edwards didn't ask himself, "There has to be a better way than this, right?"

Instead he kept hustling, making move after move to stay in the game.

"I knew that Ray would do whatever he possibly could to be successful in that job," said Schooley, who is in his eighth season of coaching men's hockey at Robert Morris University in Moon Township, Pa. "If moving to the next level meant sharpening skates, he'd do that."

LONG, HARD ROAD

Edwards' playing and coaching career has snaked through some arcane areas of hockey. Birmingham, Alabama. Pensacola, Florida. Dayton, Ohio. San Angelo, Texas. Albuquerque, New Mexico.

In San Angelo, a city of 92,000 between Dallas and El Paso, community support was scant. The Central Hockey League team folded after the 2004-05 season. In New Mexico, Edwards took the Scorpions to the Southern Conference finals in 2006-07, its first season in the CHL -- and three seasons before the franchise shut down.

Despite an overall growth of hockey in the Sun Belt -- the NHL has eight of its 30 franchises south of the 36th parallel and youth participation has grown in the six Southern states where the league plays -- the lack of fan interest in minor-league game could have discouraged Edwards.

"For me, the motivation was to help the players," he said. "It's like any other job. When you see employees have success and move on, it gives you a lot of joy. For me, that was the drug."

In the fall of 2007, the Coyotes named Edwards an assistant coach of the Rampage and two years later, he replaced the fired Greg Ireland as interim coach.

"Ray has paid his dues and has coached on different levels," said Rob Zamuner, Edwards' former junior hockey teammate who is now a divisional player representative with the NHL Players' Association. "And he didn't get anything handed to him. He wasn't the star player. He had to work for everything he had. That's what his players can feel, and that's understood in the way he coaches."

In two years as the Rampage head coach, Edwards was 70-56-0-6, and his team didn't qualify for the playoffs. Yet his philosophy on developing players as athletes and individuals emphasizes core values garnered from a long road through hockey's back country.

"You've got to be a good person," Edwards said. "You've got to do the right thing. You've got to make the right decisions. You think about the type of person you are and how to treat people. Players are expected to give back and treat each other with respect, and that's the basis of success. If you do that, you work hard, you invest and you're attentive and coachable -- those types of people have success."

Staff Writer Rachel Lenzi can be reached at 791-6415 or at:

rlenzi@pressherald.com

Twitter: rlenzi

 

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