Sheldon Brookbank is no stranger to the Blackhawks organization. He spent two seasons in Chicago to wrap up his playing career, won a Stanley Cup with the team in 2013 and was named an assistant coach for the Rockford IceHogs at the beginning of the 2017-18 season.
On Friday, Brookbank was promoted to assistant coach on Jeremy Colliton's staff with the big club after the two were behind the same bench last season and the start of this year in Rockford.
"I’m excited for the opportunity," Brookbank said. "Big thanks to the Blackhawks for bringing me back here. But I’m looking forward to it. There’s a lot of guys I know on the roster, guys I’ve worked with in Rockford, so I have that level of familiarity with them so I think that will help. Just taking it one day at a time, getting my feet wet and get things going here."
The plan was always to bring Brookbank up with the Blackhawks. Colliton wanted him here from the beginning, but losing two coaches in Rockford at the same time would have put the AHL affiliate in a tough spot.
Together again in Chicago, Colliton is hoping to pick up where they left off and believes Brookbank's background alone adds a valuable element to the Blackhawks staff.
"I didn't know him before," Colliton said. "Hired him in Rockford and after working with him for a year just, first of all tremendous person and cares a lot about the team and the players. Has a varied background in his playing career. Came the back way to the NHL and turned it into 400 games and a Stanley Cup. Played in a bunch of different leagues ... and he's been to Europe, too, which I think is a positive. It makes him really valuable in a lot of different ways. I think he can do many different things, so nice to add him to our staff."
Having been a coach for a season and a half already, Brookbank is past the point where he's adjusting from player to coach. Although, as a defenseman known for being an agitator and sticking up for his teammates, he does occassionally have to remind himself on the bench that he isn't wearing a helmet anymore in certain situations.
"Honestly, it’s sometimes when guys are on the ice or acting up, you don’t have a hand in it anymore," Brookbank said. "You get a little fired up on the bench just watching guys stick guys on your team, and it’s out of your hands. I know that’s kind of a simple thing, but you realize you’re more of a coach now and you let the players do what they do and you keep your cool back there."
The biggest thing now is getting used to the transition of being a former Blackhawks teammate to their assistant coach.
Corey Crawford, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith, Marcus Kruger, Brent Seabrook and Jonathan Toews were all teammates with Brookbank on the 2013 Stanley Cup-winning team. There's a balance and fine line now between being "one of the guys" and earning their respect as a coach.
But the 38-year-old assistant feels that gives him more of an advantage in his specific role, playing the middle man between the players and head coach. And that's what every team needs.
"There’s definitely a difference between being a coach and a teammate," Brookbank said. "But it helps that I have a relationship with those guys, just with the communication factor. The job for assistant coaches is to be this sort of in-between for the coaching staff and the players. I feel I have a leg up in that sense, that I know some of these guys already and I can talk to them, and have a lot of respect for them. I think it’ll help, having that relationship already."Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Blackhawks easily on your device.