For Dan Lambert, it was the next logical step in his coaching career.
The former Kelowna Rockets’ bench boss was named this week as the new head coach of the American Hockey League’s Rochester Americans.
The 46-year-old Lambert spent last season with the Americans’ parent club, the NHL’s Buffalo Sabres, serving as an assistant to head coach Dan Bylsma.
At a press conference on Monday in Rochester, Lambert said the new position feels like the right fit for this stage of his coaching career.
“When you’re a coach in the game, there’s no doubt you want to have success and you want to see where this is all going to take you,” said Lambert, a native of St. Boniface, Man. “When I became lucky enough to retire from playing and coach in Kelowna, I found out a few things about myself…I really enjoyed working with young men, I’m passionate about this game and I’m passionate about teaching.
“This was the next step for me to see if this is what I wanted to do as a person,” he added. “I feel very privileged to get this opportunity.”
Following a 19-year pro playing career, Lambert spent sevens coaching with the Rockets, the first six as an assistant to Ryan Huska.
In his last and only season as head coach, 2014-15, Lambert led the Rockets to their fourth Western Hockey League title and to within one goal of the Memorial Cup championship in Quebec City.
Lambert left for Buffalo for the start of the 2015-16 NHL season, working with Bylsma’s staff that helped the Sabres to a 27-point improvement over the previous season.
He also played a key role in the development of highly-touted rookies, Jack Eichel and Sam Reinhart, Buffalo’s first round picks in each of the last two years.