"Firebirds Coach Dan Bylsma Appointed as New Seattle Kraken Head Coach"

Vince Carbonneau
June 27, 2024  (9:00)

Dan Bylsma coaching
Photo credit: AHL News

One thing we've come to know about Dan Bylsma is that he wears his heart on his sleeve.

When the Firebirds coach arrives for a post-game media session, you don't have to guess whether he's in a good mood, ticked off, or something in between. That was never more clear than Monday night.
It was a gut-wrenching night for the only coach in Firebirds history. As Bylsma spoke after a season-ending loss in Game 6 of the Calder Cup Finals, he spoke slowly, his voice cracking as he described what these last two years in the Coachella Valley have meant to him.
"I said it to the group last year and said it to the group again this year," Bylsma told The Desert Sun late Monday night. "It's the time of my life. We built something. We built something in the valley with the fans and the building and the players and what we put on the ice. I asked the guys to go on the journey with me this year and they did it. This was the time of my life. The last two years here in the Coachella Valley ... (long pause searching for different words, but coming back to the same refrain) ... They've just been the time of my life."
Those are meaningful words from a guy who reached the pinnacle of his profession by winning the Stanley Cup with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2009. Bylsma will now make his return to the NHL as he officially starts his new job as head coach of the Seattle Kraken.
Before Bylsma leaves, it's important to take a look back at the flat-out remarkable feat he's accomplished here in the desert.
Two years ago, the Coachella Valley Firebirds and Acrisure Arena didn't exist. His first Firebirds team had to play their first 22 games on the road. There were times during that first season that to practice at Acrisure Arena, the coaches had to wear construction hard hats to be allowed in the building. From those humble beginnings, an American Hockey League powerhouse has arisen.
Consider that in two seasons the Firebirds have secured two Pacific Division titles, two Western Conference titles, and two trips to the Calder Cup Finals. For comparison, 22 of the current 32 AHL teams have never been to two Calder Cup Finals. The team has played in 44 playoff games. In the last two regular seasons, the Firebirds have amassed 217 points and 94 wins. Both numbers are the second most in the league over these past two seasons.
At one point during his news conference after Monday's loss, Bylsma apologized to the team and the fans because he believed the effort and product his players put on the ice deserved a championship.
Well, apology not accepted, Dan, because it's not necessary at all. What you and the players have accomplished in this valley is almost incomprehensible.
Two years ago, many in the valley wouldn't know their penalty kill from their Poturalski. Now, almost everyone in the desert seems to have a piece of Coachella Valley Firebirds merchandise. Watch parties for road games are filling up casinos. Facebook groups are buzzing about forechecks and one-timers. The valley is now an official hockey town, and Bylsma has a lot to do with that.
In my many conversations with Coach Bylsma, he was thoughtful with his answers and patient with my lack of knowledge of the finer workings of the sport he's dedicated his life to. I feel like my understanding of the sport has grown from a 3 out of 10 to about an 8 out of 10, and I owe a lot of that to some long chats with Bylsma about everything from line changes to defending a 6-on-5 situation versus a 5-on-4, to how he chooses the players and order for a shootout.
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"Firebirds Coach Dan Bylsma Appointed as New Seattle Kraken Head Coach"

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