Zack Stortini might be short on formal coaching experience, but the Sudbury Wolves are more than ready to put their faith in the same character and personal attributes that made the former OHLer the longest serving captain in franchise history.
Late last week, the Wolves announced that Stortini, now 33 years old and fresh off a Calder Cup winning season with the Charlotte Checkers of the AHL (American Hockey League), will join head coach Cory Stillman and associate coach Daryl Moxam behind the bench for the upcoming 2019-2020 season.
The veteran of more than 250 NHL games and north of 600 outings in the AHL will replace Bud Stefanski, who opted not to return after spending one season alongside his son-in-law (Stillman), helping to guide the local OHLers to a 91-point campaign.
As for Stortini, he returns to the team that drafted him into the Ontario Hockey League and was home to all 257 of his CHL games that would lead to him being selected in the 3rd round of the 2003 NHL Draft, 94th overall, by the Edmonton Oilers.
"The chance to bring back a Sudburian who has had the success in the game that he has had is outstanding for our team, and especially our players," noted Sudbury Wolves' VP Hockey Operations & General Manager Rob Papineau in a team-issued release.
"He understands what it takes to compete every night, and what it takes to win."
Though Stortini was known far more for the physical element that he would bring to the rink than his scoring ability - he would finish his NHL career with 14 goals and 725 penalty minutes - he is the first to admit that the game has changed.
While he might not advocate for the Wolves to suit a lineup of Zack Stortini clones, in terms of their pure, raw hockey skills, there are absolutely elements of his game that he would love to see transferred into his young troops.
"I'm a fan of players that play the game with a lot of passion, a lot of enthusiasm, whatever their skill-set is," said Stortini. "I want them using their skill-set to the maximum, whether that is playing a hard-nosed gritty tough game, whether that's a fast skating game, whether that's being strong defensively."
"I appreciate each and every different skill. As you know, I wasn't a high end skill player, but man, when I was out there on the ice with a high-end skill player, was it ever fun, was it ever enjoyable."
"It's something that I really appreciated," Stortini added. "At the same time, I know how hard it is to play a physical style of game. You need the different skill sets to have a successful team."