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Torchetti: Winning Cup was 'amazing'

Former K's coach helped Blackhawks, could be headed to Atlanta

As the Chicago Blackhawks were taking turns hoisting the Stanley Cup on Wednesday night, a familiar, dark-haired man was in the midst of the crowd, awaiting his chance with an uncharacteristically giddy smile.

When John Torchetti, 45, finally got his hands on the hardware, a most circuitous route was completed, so of course he was going to grin like never before.

"To be able to be on the ice with the players and the coaches, and live what you had seen so many times on TV throughout your life, it was amazing," said Torchetti, who coached the Komets in the old International Hockey League from 1996-98 and is an assistant coach with the Blackhawks.

Torchetti, who was a midseason replacement for the fired Dave Farrish, was the IHL's Coach of the Year in 1998, after going 47-29-6 that season.

From there, it was one season as general manager of the IHL's Detroit Vipers.

Since then, all but two seasons have been spent in the NHL, including short stints as the interim head coach in Florida and Los Angeles.

This was his third season with the Blackhawks, who defeated Philadelphia 4-2 in the Finals, and one of his primary responsibilities was coaching the power-play unit, which includes stars such as Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane.

He's already been mentioned as the front-runner for the vacant head-coaching job in Atlanta, where his mentor, Rick Dudley, is the general manager.

Not bad for a guy who was a nomadic, prolific minor-league player in circuits like the Atlantic Coast and East Coast Hockey Leagues, and whose coaching career with the Greensboro Monarchs of the ECHL began in 1993 with a part-time job as a cab driver.

"It's been a great road and I don't know if I'd change anything," Torchetti said. "I'm coaching some of the best players in the world, like Toews and Kane, and down the stretch, I was thinking to myself, 'Enjoy these days with these guys, because you'll be thinking about them, enjoying them forever.'"

Torchetti's contract with the Blackhawks, whose head coach is Joel Quenville, expires in June.

"We'll wait and see what happens, but a lot of the (head-coaching) jobs are already taken," Torchetti said.

The most gratifying parts, he said, weren't just getting his picture alongside Scotty Bowman while hoisting the Cup, or getting to pad his resume a little bit more. The real reward was seeing a franchise, and a city, reinvigorated.

"I sit back and think about those first days together," he said. "Not long ago, we were getting 6,000 fans to games. Now, three years later, we're past our 100th consecutive sellout. That's how you sum it all up. It's been a fun ride. It's been a great experience for me to do this. And, most of all, it's been a lot of fun."

Justin A. Cohn, pro sports coordinator for The Journal Gazette, has been covering the Fort Wayne Komets since 1997. His reporting includes game stories from home and away, features about the players and personalities associated with the Komets, plus coverage of issues affecting hockey at all levels. A native of Bloomfield Hills, Mich., Cohn graduated from Emory University in Atlanta. He can be reached at 260-461-8429 or by email at jcohn@jg.net.

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