The search for the new Checkers assistant coach is over, and it yielded a familiar face in Patrick Dwyer.
Dwyer, 36, spent 10 seasons in the Carolina system as a player. The forward recorded 93 points (42g, 51a) in 416 NHL games with the Hurricanes from 2008-2015 after logging 170 points (80g, 90a) in 296 games for their AHL affiliate in Albany from 2006-2010. Dwyer returned to the fold in 2016-17 when he signed an AHL deal with the Checkers, where he logged 26 points in 58 games, ranked fifth on the team in goals (14) and helped the team make the playoffs for the first time in four years.
A native of Spokane, WA, Dwyer has spent three of the last four seasons overseas, first in the top Swedish League with MODO in 2015-16 and then in Denmark with Soenderjyske in 2017-18. Last season Dwyer suited up as a player/assistant coach for the Belfast Giants of the EIHL – the UK’s top league – and ranked fourth on the team in scoring with 61 points (25g, 36a) in 38 games while earning EIHL Second Team All-Star honors, a stellar season that made sense as a bookend for his time on the ice.
“I knew I was getting to the end of my playing career,” said Dwyer. “I think I could still play for a couple more years but we had a great year last year in Belfast and we won a bunch of trophies and my family had an amazing time off the ice. So we kind of came to the conclusion that it would be a great year to end my playing career on and always have fond memories of a good last year like that. It kind of put the nervousness of retiring to rest.”
In hanging up his skates, Dwyer already had his sights set on his next endeavor.
“I’ve known for a long time now that when I was done playing I wanted to get into coaching,” said Dwyer. “It was the process of finding a job and finding a fit. I was fortunate enough to get into the interviewing process with Carolina and Charlotte. They wanted to find a guy who was going to mesh with the personalities that are there and had the same goals that the Hurricanes and the Checkers have for these kids. It was a little nerve-wracking in a way having never been through the process, but it was fun. Fortunately for me it went well and I couldn’t be more excited to start that new chapter of my hockey career.”
Promoted to the head coaching position earlier this month, Ryan Warsofsky helped guide the search for his counterpart on the Charlotte bench before landing on Dwyer.
“It was a pretty extensive process that we took an open mind to,” said Warsofsky. “Working with [Charlotte Sr. VP of Hockey Ops] Derek Wilkinson and the guys in Carolina, we wanted to talk to an array of guys. We got to Patrick because he has relationships in Charlotte and Carolina. It just felt like a good connection. It was a natural chemistry, I’ve been talking to him through the process. He’s eager to learn and get himself into the pro coaching game.”
The immediate connection with Warsofsky proved to be an enticing element to the job for Dwyer.
“His passion for the game is amazing,” said Dwyer of Charlotte’s head coach. “You can tell he has that passion and he hates to lose, that was made clear right away and that’s a great asset to have. He’s a young coach, he’s energetic, he’s going to be willing to learn and adapt and I think that’s important when you’re coaching young kids who are trying to get to the next level. He’s going to put his footprint on the program and I think it’s going to be a great year.”
Already with Warsofsky the youngest head coach hired in the AHL since 2000, adding an assistant coach coming straight from his playing career gives the Checkers another unique piece behind the bench.
“I think in a way it makes it easier to relate to these kids,” said Dwyer. “As a player when you look at a coach who’s not that far removed you can sit back and say ‘He understands.’ I think it’ll be easier to relay things to the kids. And the drills and skills that are coming into the game and are becoming such important assets, I’m familiar with those and have worked on them as recently as last year, so I’ll have a fresh knowledge and database of things that are becoming such a big part of the game now.”
“He’s an older guy but he understands this generation that’s coming up because he just stopped playing, that was a big factor,” said Warsofsky. “The guys who are trying to transition from the AHL to the NHL, he’s been there and done that. I think with our development guys Tim Gleason and Sergei Samsonov and Paul Schonfelder, we’ve got a really good group and he’s going to fit in. He’s going to learn from us and we’re going to learn from him. It’ll be a fun atmosphere to be around.”
A forward throughout his career, Dwyer will jump into his coaching career on the other end.
“He’s going to be coaching the D this year,” said Warsofsky. “I want him to learn. I’ve coached forwards before when I was a head coach in the ECHL so it’s not like I’ve never done it before, but because he was a forward if there’s things that he sees that may help the players, I’ll be all ears. It’s a team effort and we’re all going to be in this together. But as the main thing I’m going to work with the forwards, he’ll run the defense and PK.”
The return to the Queen City not only makes sense for Dwyer on the ice, but the ability to bring his family back to a familiar city was certainly a positive.
“It’s going to make for a smoother transition, the fact that I know everyone in the Checkers organization and we lived there for a year so our kids know other kids and they’re going back to the same school,” said Dwyer. “They couldn’t be more excited to see these friends they haven’t seen in a few years. It’s a great city, we loved our time there.”