Dave Pszenyczny knows he has his work cut out for him.
As the first head coach and director of hockey operations in the history of the Quad-City Storm, Pszenyczny is tasked with building a team that can quickly compete in its first year in the Southern Professional Hockey League.
It's a good opportunity for him after a 12-year playing career that included stops in the American Hockey League, Central Hockey League, ECHL and SPHL. He spent his last three years with the Peoria Rivermen, whom the Storm welcome to the TaxSlayer Center on Oct. 20.
"I feel that Dave has learned the facets from the game from the higher levels, all the way from the AHL down," team co-owner Ryan Mosley said. "He's going to bring what the Quad-Cities is looking for in having the right coach here."
Pszenyczny made his name as a hard-working defenseman, earning SPHL defenseman of the year honors this past season as captain with Peoria. He feels his experience has prepared him for his next challenge.
"I think I was well prepared as far as the coaches I had in the past and how they did things," Pszenyczny said. "I understand with this job that I come here and that's it. It's not 9 to 5, it will be with me all day. More hours than I know it's going to take but I just love the game so much. To me, it's not work if you love it."
Jean-Guy Trudel knows something of the challenges facing Pszenyczny. The current coach of the Peoria Rivermen ended his playing career in 2010 and coached the Peoria Mustangs, a junior team before taking over for the Rivermen when they made the move to the SPHL in 2013.
"Your biggest challenge when you’re turning from a player to a coach is you have to realize you’re not a player anymore," Trudel said. "When I started coaching it was the same way … you can’t expect your players to be you. Sometimes you have to bite the bullet and recognize what they’re good at and put them in the right situations to succeed and you have to stay on an even keel and it’s about teaching every day."
Pszenyczny has spent the last three years learning under Trudel, adding to his knowledge of the game things he hopes to apply to his first season behind the bench.
"You pick and choose what you like about it and Coach Trudel was an amazing coach, made me fall in love with the game again at a time where I had a love-hate relationship with the game," Pszenyczny said. "He made me enjoy it so much more."
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It's the second straight season Quad-Cities hockey has had a first-year head coach. The Quad-City Mallards appointed Phil Axtell as head coach last year after he went 21-12-2 in an interim capacity in the 2016-17 season. The team went 25-42-5, its worst season in its last year as a franchise.
Axtell, however, hadn't played since 2010 and Trudel thinks Pszenyczny coming right off the ice could be beneficial.
"He’s part of that new wave of coaching, he knows that speed game we have and that pressure game that’s all over the place and he’s been right in the action of it," Trudel said. "He knows our league, he knows what kind of players he needs to actually make runs at it."
As director of hockey operations, Pszenyczny will have roster control and is actively recruiting players for this season.
He's looking for more than just talent.
"I want good human beings," he said. "I want people that will respect themselves and when they go out in the community, they're still representing the team and themselves. We're going to have guys that are going to work and guys that are going to get out in the community. Make sure that everybody's doing their job."
Dan Bremner, another captain for Trudel and the Rivermen, went 21-15-2 for the Roanoke Rail Yard Dawgs last season after taking over as head coach in December.
Trudel thinks the Storm could see similar success under Pszenyczny's leadership.
"As I look at it, Quad-City will not be an expansion team," he said. "You’ve got a coach that has been in the league and he knows exactly what’s needed to have success and I know he’s going to do a good job."