Bob Ferguson was named Assistant General Manager of the Ducks’ AHL affiliate in Iowa on July 8, a day before the announcement of the team being renamed the Chops. Bob’s step into the management ranks after 28 years of coaching is a testament to how someone can climb the proverbial corporate ladder by doing the right things and developing the right relationships.
For the past three years Bob has been the head coach and Director of Hockey Operations with the Augusta (GA) Lynx in the ECHL. His coaching career has included three stops in the state of Iowa with Sioux City and Des Moines (twice) of the United States Hockey League, where he won a combined five Clark Cup Championships and finished as the all-time leader in USHL coaching wins finishing with 517 career victories.
Alex Arias, play-by-play voice of the Chops, recently sat down with Ferguson for a Q&A:
Welcome back to Iowa, Bob. Little did we know last season that we would be back together again, only in different surroundings and in a different city?
Ferguson: It is strange how things work. The hockey community is a tight-knit one and sometimes the more things change, the more they stay the same.
Speaking of familiar faces, you saw a lot of them upon your return to Des Moines during the press conference back on July 9th. What was that experience like?
Ferguson: It was like ‘Back to the Future’ for me. Iowa is a great hockey state with very passionate fans and they will be honest with you. The turnout at the press conference was a very nice surprise and the crowd was fantastic. To come back after all these years and to see that type of audience supporting professional hockey in Des Moines really spoke to me and reaffirmed I had made a good decision to come back to the area.
You are a couple weeks into the new job. How do you like it so far?
Ferguson: Great. The off-season has some very familiar duties to it because it is all about player movement, signings, and contracts. I know that once training camp arrives it will be a different challenge. I will be happy to get to Des Moines and get an office set-up and really get my feet wet.
There is a pretty good list right now of players that Anaheim has in their system via draft picks and free agents signings that could potentially end up with the Iowa Chops. What is your initial assessment of talent that could make up the team come October?
Ferguson: I think the depth at defense is particularly deep and a huge plus for us. The competition for the spots on the Anaheim roster will be intense and ultimately we will benefit from that. Based on Anaheim’s history of developing players, we can expect a team that will not only compete night after night, but win as well. One of their number one goals is to make sure their top prospects succeed so that when they do reach the NHL, success has become a habit for them. The good news for Iowa Chops fans is that the Anaheim Ducks believe winning at the AHL level will lead to players winning at the NHL level.
After you do arrive in Des Moines, what are some of the immediate things you will be working on between now and the start of training camp?
Ferguson: First will be setting up our travel for the road trips we will have this season once the schedule is released. I am also in the process of finalizing two pre-season games (home and away) with the Quad City Flames. The next big step will be familiarizing myself and organizing the hockey staff. There will be the announcement and hiring of a Coaching staff, along with an Athletic Trainer and Equipment Manager. After all that, the next big step will be preparing for the arrival of players in late September for the start of training camp. You have to remember that this will be the first time in Des Moines for almost all of them, so we need to make a good first impression and make them understand that this is one of the premier places to play in the AHL.
Speaking of coaching staff, I know fans are getting excited about finding out who will lead this team behind the bench. We know Kevin Dineen (Anaheim’s AHL coach in Portland, Maine last season) will not be the head coach here in Iowa next season. What do you believe Anaheim is looking for in the next head coach of the Iowa Chops?
Ferguson: Well, first off I think myself and the Anaheim organization think very highly of Kevin Dineen and we wish him the best of luck in Portland with their new affiliate (Buffalo Sabres). A big focus for Anaheim will be selecting a head coach who can work within and believe in their system. He will have to have a strong commitment to developing players within the system and structure that Anaheim has set forth. Having been in that role as a coach the past three years within Anaheim’s developmental system, I can assure you it will be someone who is a good teacher and who comes from a tradition of winning and success.
Will you/do you miss coaching?
Ferguson: Yes, I miss it already, but this job on the management side is an exciting new challenge for me. Anaheim has a tradition and excellence of winning and being a first-class organization and I am thankful to be a part of that. I also welcome the challenge of presenting the residents of Des Moines and the state of Iowa with an on-ice product that will grow our fan base and make them proud to cheer for us. We have a fresh start with a new team name and new affiliate, and will try and make the most of it.
One of the neat experiences of being a professional hockey player, coach, or broadcaster is life on the road in different cities, seeing different venues. Now that you are out of coaching, do you still plan to attend Iowa Chops games on the road?
Ferguson: Yes, I am planning on it. I have always said you learn more about your team and your players by the way they play and react on the road. There is an entirely different set of challenges and pressure placed on a team and if you expect a team to win the Calder Cup, they have to win on the road when it counts.