At Tuesday’s press conference announcing Ryan Warsofsky as the Charlotte Checkers’ new head coach, broadcaster Jason Shaya led things off with a story.
“Zack Stortini and I were having a conversation about the passion of the game,” said Shaya. “He said some guys love to win and some guys hate to lose. Then he points at Ryan and says, ‘That guy? He really hates to lose.’”
Even Warsofsky himself – who was named the fifth head coach in team history earlier this month – admits the truth to that anecdote.
“I hate to lose and sometimes it creeps into some bad habits when I’m playing with my nephews in two-on-two football or playing video games, I don’t want to lose at anything,” said Warsofsky. “That’s just in my DNA.”
The Checkers have already gotten a firsthand look at the passion Warsofsky brings to the bench, as he helped guide the team to its first ever Calder Cup last season as an assistant coach. Now, even with a large amount of turnover, there will be a familiarity with a new head coach for the first time.
“It’s no secret that we’ve lost some players and we’ll need to replace them but there are a good few guys who were here last year who know me and know what I’m all about,” said Warsofsky. “That’s kind of a seamless transition I think. I wasn’t working closely with the forwards, but having just two coaches you get to know the guys pretty well. This long run and the experience we had I think goes a long way. I’m looking forward to this opportunity and I think I’m ready.”
At 31, Warsofsky is not only the youngest coach in franchise history, he’s the youngest AHL coach hired since 2000. Despite his young age, though, he has plenty of pedigree to draw from at both the ECHL and AHL levels.
“I’ve learned under some great people in [current Hershey Bears] Spencer Carberry and Mike Vellucci, two really successful coaches,” said Warsofsky. “I’m going to continue to learn and try to get better and get our players to buy into what we’re selling. That’s the main part of being a coach.”
Vellucci and Warsofsky proved to be a strong duo in their one year behind the bench, with the latter drawing from the former’s vast experience.
“I learned a ton from him and I’ll forever be grateful to Mike and how he took me under his wing,” said Warsofsky. “He’s got a lot of experience and he’s a great coach, but even more he’s a great person. I have to thank Mike for all the support.”
With Vellucci departing for Wilkes-Barre/Scranton earlier this offseason, the door opened for Warsofsky to take what he learned and add in his own twist to the organization’s winning formula.
“We’ll do some things differently but a lot of it will be pretty similar to what Mike was doing and what the guys in Carolina are doing with [head coach] Rod Brind’Amour and his staff,” said Warsofsky. “There will be some tweaks maybe with practice and some little details but for the most part it’s going to be a pretty seamless transition.”
For Checkers’ owner Michael Kahn, watching Warsofsky be a driving part of delivering a championship to the Queen City was more than enough to convince him that this was the right hire.
“More than anything it’s his intensity,” said Kahn of what impressed him the most about Warsofsky. “I like people that don’t like to lose. You can’t necessarily make the team win, but you can teach them that it’s not fun when you don’t win and that winning is the better alternative. I very much enjoyed Ryan and the intensity level he’s bringing to the head coaching position.”
Warsofsky has undoubtedly made a strong impression within the organization over the last year, culminating in this summer’s development camp.
“I interviewed during development camp and I thought it went really well and then my wife and I got the call from Don [Waddell] as we were driving over to Martha’s Vineyard. We hung up and kind of looked at each other and were like ‘Wow, that was pretty cool.’ It’s something you don’t forget. There’s not one day where I won’t be grateful for this opportunity.”
He has since continued to be in contact with the Hurricanes, now working out plans for this shortened offseason.
“I talked to Rod a couple times about structure and how we want to play and what he’s looking for in certain players,” said Warsofsky. “We also talked about rounding out the staff down here. I think finding an assistant coach is my main focus right now. And then getting ready for training camp, schedule planning and the day-to-day planning for the year.”
After thriving with the ECHL’s South Carolina Stingrays and working his way to head coach of the Checkers, Warsofsky has witnessed firsthand the powerful passion that this region brings for its hockey teams. With his hate-to-lose DNA and a championship pedigree, fans should have plenty to look forward to under his tenure.
“I’ve been in the Carolinas coaching now for seven years and being here, there’s nowhere else I’d want to be in the whole league,” said Warsofsky. “It’s the best place to play, the players will agree with me. The fans are loud, passionate and they want to win. They got that experience and hopefully that doesn’t go anywhere. We want to put a winner on the ice.”