By Darryl G. Smart
Things have truly come full circle for Geordie Kinnear.
The pride and joy of Delhi had always thought of Charlotte, NC. as a home, especially after spending six seasons as the Charlotte Checkers assistant coach. And thanks to a series of fortunate events, Kinnear and his family are moving back and he will now be that team’s head coach for the upcoming American Hockey League season.
“I always wanted to be the head coach of the Charlotte Checkers,” Kinnear told Paul Branecky, who is the Checkers’ vice president, marketing and communications. “I have a ton of respect for the Checkers and what they are about.”
After spending six years as an assistant with the Checkers, Kinnear chased his dream of becoming a head coach, moving to the Springfield Thunderbirds, who had just become the Florida Panthers AHL affiliate at the time.
At the beginning of September, it was finally made official, that the Panthers and Checkers would enter into an affiliate agreement, because of a chain of events that all began with the St. Louis Blues.
In March, the St. Louis Blues signed an affiliation deal with the Thunderbirds. The Blues previously had an agreement with the Chicago Wolves. As a result, the Carolina Hurricanes moved its prospects to the Wolves. This move set up the Panthers sliding its affiliation over to Charlotte, setting up a reunion with Kinnear and much of the Checkers’ front office.
“The relationships, the people and the commitment to winning,” Kinnear said of why he appreciates Charlotte. “The competitive nature of everybody and the family approach that Michael brings. I just felt it was such a family-oriented group. Obviously they went on to a win a Calder Cup, and that’s no surprise with how things are run.
“Everyone’s happy,” he said. “It’s a great place to live and a place we felt was home. I just never thought we’d get back here like we did.”
SPENT TIME IN THE NHL BUBBLE
After the affiliation move, Florida Panthers head coach Joel Quenville asked Kinnear to accompany the NHL team to the Toronto bubble. While there, Kinnear watched over and put the Panthers’ extra players through their paces, while being another set of eyes in the press box during games.
“The mental toughness, to be able to win, whether you’re in the bubble or not, is first and foremost,” Kinnear said. “Being without your family, I don’t care who you are, is always a challenge. To make that sacrifice is not easy, but I think in the end if you ask these two teams if it was all worth it right now to be playing in the Stanley Cup Final, that’s what we’re all here for. To be able to win in the end.”