ROCKFORD, Ill. (WIFR) Jeremy Colliton was relatively unknown when he was hired by the IceHogs last May and, in just a year's time, the quiet and calm man standing atop the Rockford bench has captured the hearts of fans and players alike.
From the very first time he put his hands on an IceHogs jersey, Colliton was never about himself.
In a season filled with records and new heights for the franchise, the first-year coach's personality worked to perfection with his players.
"He's very aware of what's going on in the locker room and he feels the energy in the locker room and he knows what to say, what not to say and when to say nothing at all," said goalie Collin Delia. "Every time he addresses us, it's with levelheadedness and respect and I have too many good things to say."
It was unclear if his four seasons in Sweden would properly prepare him for the AHL, but the 33-year-old connected with his young squad; propelling Rockford to its first ever Western Conference Finals appearance.
He says there was plenty to learn.
"Each guy is different, each guy needs different things and different feedback and to be handled in a different way," said Colliton. "You challenge yourself each day to help these guys get better both as a team and individually because ultimately they all want to play with the Blackhawks and I want to help them get there."
Colliton did just that for his players by helping a dozen make the leap to the NHL.
But the Alberta-native was not about to take credit for the call-ups and says he needs to continue improving as a coach only in a new way.
"We had success as a team, but that's a credit to the players," Colliton said. "I enjoyed working with them, I loved every minute of it, but now the challenge for us is we have to find a new way. But I think that's what makes it fun. We can't just do what we've done before and think it's going to work. We've got to find a new way."