Next to ``How much difference is there between the ECHL and the Central Hockey League?'', Colin Chaulk's next favorite question this fall has been, ``How will things be different for you as a player/assistant coach?''
The answer to both questions, Chaulk says, is ``Not much.''
``I honestly don't think it will be that different or that hard,'' says the Komets' 35-year-old center.
And he's exactly correct because Chaulk will be Chaulk whether he's wearing the C as team captain or whether he's playing or serving as assistant coach. He already spends half of each practice, bus ride and locker room bull session teaching younger players, diagramming plays to make sure everyone understands what they are supposed to do.
Basically, the Komets have had three coaches recently with Al Sims as the head coach, Gary Graham as the assistant and Chaulk as the assistant's assistant coach. Now Chaulk moves up as Graham received his first head coaching position over the summer with Pensacola of the Southern Professional Hockey League.
Chaulk will still spend most of the game yelling from the bench to let teammates know who's closing in on them or to encourage defensemen to stand up at the blue line or to make sure everyone is aware of a potential problem. It's what he does best.
``The only thing I'm dong differently this year is the video,'' he said. ``I feel like I helped Gary and Al as captain of the club in the past, so there shouldn't be much difference. Just do what Al says and make sure I play hard on the ice.''
The key to being a player/assistant is earning trust from both the players and the coach, Sims said, and Chaulk already has that.
``Colin and I have a relationship already and that really helps,'' Sims said, ``and what we've done here kind of demands instant respect from the people around us.
``I trust him 100 percent with the team and what he says to the team. It's something special that we have here that many teams don't have. I'm sure Missouri and Rapid City had their leaders, but it's a little different here.''
Sims knows because he was a player/assistant coach when he started his coaching career. He came back from Europe in 1988 to serve the role for Robbie Laird with the Komets.
``It's difficult in the fact that you are walking a tightwire between the players and the head coach,'' Sims said. ``You have to have trust from the players that you are doing the right thing and trust from the head coach that you are doing the right thing for him. I think gaining the players' trust and the coach's trust is the biggest thing with being a playing assistant coach. Otherwise you are going to get yourself in hot water with one party or the other.''
After winning four titles in five years as a captain, that won't be that hard, Chaulk said. In fact, it might be easier this year because the Komets will have a younger roster.
``The older guys are like, `Nah, I don't want to listen to you, you're close to my age,' sometimes,'' Chaulk said. ``The younger guys are more, `You do what I tell you to do and that's it.' We're going to flexible and we're not going to be jerks about it, but at some point you have to say, `All right, this is the way we're going to do business and that's it.' I have to reinforce what the coach wants, and I already do that.''