By Bill Hoppe
Terry Pegula has spoken about his AHL affiliate in Rochester serving as the “University of Sabres.” In addition to a standard hockey education, the owner wants his prospects to develop important life skills and become professionals in every sense.
With that in mind, the Sabres have tabbed Ron Rolston, mostly recently the coach of Team USA’s Under-18 squad, as the Rochester Americans’ new coach, according to several reports. He’s expected to be introduced this morning at a news conference in Rochester.
A relative unknown, the 44-year-old Rolston served as an assistant coach with four NCAA programs before he joined USA Hockey in 2004. His entire professional experience consists of seven ECHL games as a player in 1989-90.
It’s an off-the-grid choice, no doubt. Every AHL coach under Sabres general manager Darcy Regier — Brian McCutcheon, Randy Cunneyworth and Kevin Dineen — had NHL playing experience.
But Rolston has a strong track record developing youngsters as the longest-tenured coach in National Team Development Program history, winning several gold medals. He’s also coached the Under-17 and National Junior teams.
Rolston, the older brother of New Jersey winger Brian Rolston, played three collegiate seasons at Michigan Tech. He began his coaching career as an assistant at Lake Superior State in 1990-91, and then moved on to Clarkson, Harvard and Boston College.
Dineen, who coached the Sabres’ AHL affiliate in Portland the last three seasons, was recently named the Florida Panthers’ coach.
Pegula purchased the Amerks, the Sabres’ farm team from 1979 to 2008, last month. The Sabres must still hire assistants for Rolston. Regier has also said he wants to add more veteran scoring to the Amerks.