Blackhawk Up got the chance to speak with new Indy Fuel assistant coach John Bierchen who has been hired with hopes to help revitalize player development in the Blackhawks minor league system
Professional sports at the surface is a spectacle unlike any other. Teams consisting of “the best of the best” athletes collide to form entertainment for fans that breeds champions and legends who even grown men look up to. Professional athletes will tell you the opportunity to get to the major league level takes hard work, perseverance, and perhaps a little luck. What they talk about less often is the hundreds of guys they knew who didn’t make it.
Blackhawks fans can look no further than former goaltender Scott Darling. In his June 13th 2017 Players Tribune article titled “Goodbye, Chicago,” Darling describes his fortunes of making it to the NHL by saying to himself, “How the f*** did this happen?” Darling played for over 12 minor league hockey teams across the United States while struggling with mental health issues, substance abuse, and was on the verge of quitting hockey all together. Since his successes with the Blackhawks, Darling has signed a 4-year $16.6M contract with the Carolina Hurricanes, but he hasn’t forgotten how grateful he is for the opportunity to play pro hockey.
Minor League Shake-Up
After two consecutive first round playoff eliminations, Blackhawks GM Stan Bowman vowed to make organization-wide changes that would refocus their goal of being a perennial contender for the Stanely Cup. One of those changes was relieving Rockford IceHogs head coach Ted Dent of his duties and replacing him with Jeremy Colliton.
Last season the IceHogs placed last in their division with a record of 25-39-9. They struggled to string wins together which ultimately lead to a roster turnover during the offseason. The IceHogs will have a new look next year with several young players and a new heard coach. Jeremy Colliton coached team Mora IK in Sweeden to a league leading record of 35-4-3 last season while posting an overall record of 98-18-57 in his four years with the team.
With teams around the league like Pittsburgh who have been able to plug in young productive players into their NHL lineup, the Blackhawks feel that hitting on their draft picks and player development are the cornerstones for organizational sustained success. Ted Dent played a major role in helping players get to the NHL, but it seemed like time may have just run it’s course with him and several players that needed to move on.
John Bierchen – Indy Fuel Assistant Coach
Another change that was made to the Blackhawks minor league system was the hiring of former head coach of the Alabama Crimson Tide John Bierchen. Bierchen grew up in Florida and attended the University of Alabama for his undergrad where he played goalie for the Crimson Tide. After graduating, he had several coaching positions including D-III program SUNY Canton Kangaroo’s, the Southern Professional Hockey League’s Columbus Cottonmouth’s, and most recently his alma matter where he lead the Crimson Tide to a 19-14-2 record, the best season in school history.
Learning more with every new opportunity, Bierchen credits routine and honesty to his success thus far. In an article from April of 2017 in The Crimson White, Bierchen talks about the monotony of routine and how it can lead to success. He hopes that leading by example will help his players “keep the big picture in mind instead of getting caught up in momentary successes or failures.”
One of Bierchen’s responses when asked about the challenges of player development is that he plans to continue to “relentlessly execute my job every day.” As the Blackhawks work to give their farm system a new look, coaches like Bierchen, Indy Fuel head coach Bernie John, and IceHogs head coach Jeremy Colliton will play pivotal roles determining how quickly the ‘Hawks can get back to the Stanley Cup, and relentless execution sounds like a good place to start.
John Bierchen was nice enough to answer a few questions for Blackhawk Up so fans can learn a little more about him and his plans in the Blackhawks organization.