I caught up with new Kings assistant coach Mark Hardy for a phone interview. Hardy had been in line to be coach of the AHL team in Rockford, Ill., but chose to join Terry Murray’s staff with the Kings. Hardy spent parts of 11 seasons as a Kings defenseman and spent six seasons as a Kings assistant under Andy Murray. Here’s the interview…
Question: Can you talk about how this came together?
Hardy: “Well, I know Dean (Lombardi) got in contact with the Blackhawks and asked for permission to talk to me. The Blackhawks and (GM) Dale Tallon were classy enough to let me know that they called and I returned Dean’s call and we worked everything out. I keep pinching myself. I can’t believe I’m coming back, but I think it’s fantastic and I’m really looking forward to the opportunity.”
Question: Any mixed emotions about leaving Chicago, when it seemed that things started to be headed in the right direction there?
Hardy: “Oh yeah, it was tough to leave here. Actually, I was going to be the head coach in Rockford (in the AHL) and work with their young players down there, but when I found out about the Kings, I jumped at the opportunity. I just couldn’t wait to get back. But yeah, there’s a little bit of that, knowing the direction that the Blackhawks have come in the last two years. There are some really good young players here and I really enjoyed it here, but to come back to the Kings… I always felt like I was a King and I know it’s going to be a tough road but I’m looking forward to working with the young players there.”
Question: Is there a sense of wanting to get another shot at this with the Kings, after things didn’t turn out well with Andy Murray’s firing?
Hardy: “Well, absolutely. I sat down and I talked with Dean and with Ron Hextall and then I met Terry Murray. They’re all on the same page and they want to get this thing going. It’s part of a big thing. We’re going to be able to turn that thing around. I think they’ve done some very good things, in terms of drafting young players, and I’m looking forward to the challenge.”
Question: Did you know Terry at all? Had you worked with him before?
Hardy: “I did not. We just sat down and kind of hit it off. It seems like we’re on the same page. I’m going to be coming back there to work with Nelly (Nelson Emerson). Jamie Kompon seems like a very hard-working guy and a really good guy. I know those two guys and we’re going to have a really nice coaching staff, along with Dean and Ron Hextall. I know how bad they want to win and get this thing turned around. It’s just a real good opportunity.”
Question: I know we’re real early into this, but have there been any discussions about what your particular duties might be?
Hardy: “Not exactly, no. I’m sure we’re all going to sit down. Terry said that we will meet well before training camp starts and define all the roles and get together as a coaching staff and figure things out.”
Question: Looking from afar for the last couple years, what have you seen from the Kings? Did you keep an eye on the team and watch the development at all?
Hardy: “Yeah, pretty much. It was tough to stay awake some nights, but I watched as many games as I could. It’s always fun to watch your old team play and see how they’re doing. I know it’s been tough, but I can definitely see that they have some good young talent there, and things are only going to get better. I watched Brownie (Dustin Brown) turn into a big leader on that team. Kopitar is obviously a big force. Jack Johnson is coming into his own. Frolov had a pretty good year. O’Sullivan had a good year. They made some nice additions, I think, with Matt Greene and Stoll coming in. I think it could be good there.”
Question: There are a lot of young defensemen in the pipeline who will have to contribute soon. Are those the guys you think you can help particularly, having been through it yourself?
Hardy: “Well, I’m hoping so. I had the same situation here with some young defensemen who I was able to work with. Duncan Keith and Seabrook, Cam Barker and Wisniewski. They were young defensemen as well and I had a good relationship with them. It’s going to be tough to say goodbye to those guys because we had a really good relationship and things went well with them, but I know that I’m going to the same type of thing that I started with here two years ago. Hopefully, I can help with them, because I know that the Kings have some very talented young defensemen on the way.”