The New York Night announced this week that they hired Nick Foster as their new coach for the 2017 season. Foster replaces Preston Rivers, who was fired after two seasons of disappointing results on-ice and tremendous dysfunction off of it.
“It’s no secret that we have high aspirations as an organization,” said New York GM Royce McCormick. “We want to be a championship organization, and we think Nick is the guy to get us there. He’s got the qualities that we were looking for: he’s smart, tough, and he knows the game inside out. There’s no limit to how far he can take us.”
Sources close to the organization say that the Night strongly preferred a veteran coach, and Foster definitely fits the bill, with over 15 years of experience coaching at a variety of levels, from college to junior to the minor leagues. “This isn’t my first rodeo,” said Foster. “I know we’ve got some work to do, but that doesn’t scare me.”
Foster has a reputation as a turnaround artist; at several stops, he’s taken poor and struggling teams and turned them into contenders. “He’s a guy who knows how to get results, and quickly,” said McCormick. “That’s exactly what I want to see.”
Foster was coy about setting expectations at the press conference. When asked if he thought the Night would make the Finals this season, the new coach replied with a grin, “I’m not going to make any guarantees. That’s a good way to get run out of town in a hurry. But we’re going to be competitive, and we’re going to win sooner than later. That’s why I love New York; it’s a winner’s town.”
The Night certainly expected to be competitive under Rivers, and the coach never shied away from boasting about his team’s prowess. But New York’s grand ambitions crumbled into a wreck of poor defense, inconsistent effort, and internal dissension. Several players took public shots at their teammates and Rivers, with star RW Rick “The Stick” Nelson even bolting the team in the final week of the season.
Foster acknowledged that repairing the Night’s toxic clubhouse is a priority. “Obviously, things got out of control here last year, and that can’t happen again,” said Foster. “I want to get us focused on winning and working together. I’ve always found that it’s a lot easier to keep everybody happy when you win.”
Asked if he planned to seek trades for any noted troublemakers, Foster said, “Nah. Not right away. As far as I’m concerned, they’ve all got a clean slate with me. Everybody’s got a chance to get on board with what we’re doing.”
Along with Foster, the Night introduced new assistant coach Biff Lombardi, replacing Cam Prince. Lombardi was reportedly a finalist for the head job as well. Lombardi has been an assistant for almost 20 seasons, primarily in the minor leagues. He is known for his defensive instruction, and he hopes to address the team’s defensive issues.
“Look, let’s be honest: this team is never going to be Michigan in terms of defense,” Lombardi said. “That’s not our identity. But if we can make more of an effort, police our own end better, that goes a long way. We don’t have to turn into a bunch of grinders and trappers, but we need to make that effort. I’m OK with winning 5-4, but we can’t give up 5 or 6 goals a game and expect to win.”
New York players responded positively to the hirings of Foster and Lombardi. “Nick Foster seems like a good guy and a serious, professional guy,” said Nelson. “He’s not going to be out glossing himself all the time. He’s into winning, and that’s what we’re into too. Let’s do this.”