By Bill Oram
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, July 16, 2009 5:44 PM
Bob Woods has been a fixture at Washington Capitals summer development camps. As a coach of the Hershey Bears, the Capitals' top minor league affiliate, he helped the organization evaluate and mold promising prospects.
He is there again this year, but with one key difference. Whereas before Woods would maybe see some of the young players soon again as the head coach in Hershey, he now is a full-fledged member of the Capitals coaching staff and will have to wait until the next development camp, or for the players to make it to the NHL.
"You want to see these guys look better and look stronger and look more mature any time you get to see them," said Woods, who never played or, before now, coached in the NHL. "Their time's coming, where they're going to be ready to make the step to pro, and I think this is only going to prepare them for that."
Woods was promoted from Hershey last month by the Capitals to coach the defensemen and replace assistant Jay Leach, whose contract was not renewed. Woods succeeded Coach Bruce Boudreau in Hershey after serving as an assistant there for three and a half seasons, and led the Bears to the Calder Cup as American Hockey League champions this spring.
"He was great for us," said center Mathieu Perreault, who spent last season with Woods in Hershey. And while Woods's rise to the NHL has been anything but direct, Perreault said the coach's most recent step was not surprising.
"We all kind of expected it," Perreault said. "He deserves it. He's a great coach and it's good for him."
The new job brings a whirlwind of changes for Woods, who next month will move to Fairfax with his wife and two sons. His oldest son, Brendan, will prepare to spend much of the year in Chicago, playing in the U.S. Hockey League. His wife, Mary Sue, is a teacher and looking for a job. Still, one of the biggest changes for Woods with the new job is the stability it will bring.
The Saskatchewan native, a former draft pick of the New Jersey Devils, spent his 13-year playing career bouncing from places such as Norfolk to Portland, Maine to hockey outposts such as Johnstown, Pa., and Utica, N.Y.; in eight seasons as a coach before going to Hershey, he coached in Biloxi, Miss., and Tallahassee -- places many miles, and many stages of a career, removed from the NHL. Washington is bigger than any of those cities, and while Woods hasn't officially made the move inside the Beltway, he is already lamenting the traffic.
"It's a half hour each way," Woods said when asked about his commute to Kettler Capitals Iceplex. "A little different from my 15 minutes in 'Hersh.' When you want to make the step those are part of the things you gotta deal with."
Woods spent four summers in the 1990s playing professional roller hockey for teams in Portland, Ore., Philadelphia and Anaheim, Calif., to supplement his meager minor league income and stay in shape. It's an offseason ritual that he says modern hockey players don't practice.
"It took me 21 years in the minors to get to the NHL, and it's all worth it," Woods said.