With the St. Charles Chill making their Central Hockey League debut this October, there has been a lot on the plate of Head Coach and newly appointed General Manager, Jamie Rivers. He’s had to field many calls on many players to create a roster from scratch.
Rivers, 38, was drafted by the St. Louis Blues in the third round of the 1993 National Hockey League entry draft. He turned pro with the Blues in the 1995-96 season and spent 15 years playing hockey professionally. He is a veteran of six different leagues including the NHL, American Hockey League, and the Russian Super League.
Rivers career ended in 2010-11 when he suffered a ruptured spleen that first went undetected. There was a time where his heart stopped and was revived with an electric defibrillator. Now fully healed, he set his sights on another target. Coaching.
I was able to talk to him one-on-one about his transition from player, to coach, to general manager.
“There is a lot of stuff that has happened along the way that some people don’t get to see. I’ve been doing on ice training with NHL guys for three years now. In the off-season, they come to me and I put together a program for them to build on what they already have. It’s not just about keeping them in shape, it’s about building on their skill level. The game is played at an extremely high pace now and guys need to be able to play. You can’t just chip it off the boards or just be there to hit guys anymore, you’ve got to be able to make a play. That is something I’ve been doing very regularly.”
Rivers also discussed his time spent helping Ken Hitchcock and the Blues organization, “The Blues have had me come in during the season and work with guys coming back from injury. This past year during the lockout, I was basically coaching the Blues as the coaching staff was not allowed to be there. We ran practices every morning just like you would during the season. When the lockout ended, Mr. Hitchcock and Mr. Armstrong reached out to me to come and run the first week of training camp. I jumped at the opportunity to do it and I had a blast doing it. I was able to work with those guys and be in the war room with Hitchcock and his staff. I’ll tell you, I’d be a fool if I didn’t sit there and seriously retain what they were talking about. I worked with them in season and in the playoffs I was called upon to work with guys, especially the extra players that haven’t been playing to keep them fresh. I help coach Agnew run practices when they had them because everyone else was fairly busy breaking down the games being played. It was truly a great year for me to go in and get a lot of experience with the Blues and I owe them a lot for it. For that alone, I believe I’m ready for this.”
He touched on the promotion to general manager as well and what has helped him get ready for a heightened role. “I spent a lot of time talking with Doug Armstrong and Al MacInnis about all the phone calls and recruiting and contracts and I think I’m ready to handle that side of the game as well.”
Earlier this week, The Chill announced three player signings, forward Kyle Kraemer, forward Jordan Fox, and defensemen Tony DeHart. All three of which are natives of St. Louis and will be playing at home professionally for the first time.
I spoke with DeHart as well and he repeated his excitement from the press conference about signing in St. Charles, “My family haven’t gotten to really seem me play in a while. My dad flew out a couple of times to see me in California but I can’t remember the last time my mom got to watch me play so we’re pretty ecstatic about it. Having all your family and friends be able to come out and watch it is always fun, it really gives you an adrenaline rush to play in front of them.”
I ask GM/Coach Rivers about DeHart’s game and if he’d be relied upon more offensively or defensively, he responded with the following, “Tony’s going to do what he does best, and that’s get up the ice and move the puck. He’ll play on the powerplay, but he’s a big, good skating guy, he’s physical and he doesn’t back down from anyone. I believe he had eight or nine fights last year with Stockton. He’s a young guy with a lot of hunger and my job for him is to get him going in the right direction. I just have to help map it out for him and get him to the next level.”
DeHart echoed his coaches thoughts on him and his game, “I am a two-way guy. Any role I’m placed in, I’ll be good. I play powerplay, I have a good shot, good vision, and I’m a good passer. On the defensive side, I have a good stick and I’m good with the poke check. I like the physical side of the game and I can be a shut down guy as well. Whatever coach needs me to do I’m going to do. I came here because I was excited to play under a guy who’s played at that top level in the NHL.”
Needless to say, both Rivers and Dehart are ready for the season to commence and get the games started. Rivers and very high on DeHart and Tony is ready to play for a guy like Jamie.
I’ll be keeping up with the Chill all season and will be covering their games this season. I’m very excited to see what this young team can do and I, along with many others, are happy to have a team back in St. Charles.