Former men’s hockey great returns as assistant coach
His 148 career points ranks eighth in Quinnipiac’s ice hockey history and are the most recorded by any Quinnipiac defenseman. His 125 assists ranks number one in the Bobcats’ record book. He is Quinnipiac’s only athlete to be named an All-American, and that happened three times.
After five years of playing professional hockey, Reid Cashman is back at Quinnipiac. On Aug. 19, Quinnipiac’s athletic department announced that Cashman was hired as the new assistant coach, replacing Ben Syer, who left to become an assitant coach at Cornell.
“It’s exciting. It’s feeling like a second home,” Cashman said. “This is where I graduated, I met my fiancee here, so she’s excited to be back. It really has a feeling of coming back home.”
While Cashman, 28, may have been gone for five years, his success at Quinnipiac still resonates. There is a framed Cashman jersey hanging in head coach Rand Pecknold’s office. Another one hangs in the Bobcats’ locker room. His name also hangs above the ice on the new 100 career points banner at TD Bank Sports Center.
“It’s a huge honor to be recognized around this building for what I did here in the four years I did it,” Cashman said. “I was fortunate to be able to put some points up and be successful.”
After he graduated, Cashman’s dream of playing in the NHL took him all across the country. Cashman played for the Toronto Marlies, Columbia Inferno, Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins, Wheeling Nailers, Cincinnati Cyclones, and Milwaukee Admirals.
He also traveled around the world playing hockey. His skills took to him Austria, where he played a year with the EHC Black Wings Linz. But playing in Europe was quite a change, both on and off the ice.
“The ice is much bigger over in Europe,” Cashman said. “It’s more of a skating game, more of a skill game. There’s less hitting. It’s more of a puck possession game.
“Culturally was a pretty big difference too. Austria’s national language is German. Learning German and living in a different culture was an experience.”
But Cashman’s return to Hamden almost didn’t happen. The Bobcats decided to hire Brian Renfrew, who later backed out of the job to go to Nebraska-Omaha.
Even after Renfrew backed out, it was a close call getting Cashman back to Quinnipiac.
“The day I got my official contract to sign with in Germany was the day he called,” Cashman said. “It was on a Wednesday. I was supposed to be on a plane on Friday. If he had waited two days to offer me the job I wouldn’t have been able to take it because I would have been overseas.”
Coaching has been something that has always been in the back of his mind, Cashman said, especially if it meant coming back to Quinnipiac.
“I was basically looking for a second career after playing,” Cashman said. “I had every intention of playing more and playing longer. But when the opportunity arose to come back here, it was just too good to pass up.”
Because of that, Cashman has tried to take small tidbits of coaching styles from each of the coaches he has played for, he said.
“I’ve played for a lot of great coaches,” Cashman said. “I’d include Rand in that list. You try and take bits and pieces from each, what you thought worked, what didn’t work.”
Included in that list is Dan Bylsma, the current coach of the Pittsburgh Penguins. Cashman played for Bylsma at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton during the 2008-2009 season.
It was the same season that Bylsma was called up to coach the Penguins, who went on to win the Stanley Cup that year.
“He was pretty good at what he did,” Cashman said. “He got the most out of his players. He’s able to motivate guys and keep guys on the same page.”
According to Cashman, the thing that made Bylsma so great was his ability to communicate with the player, something that Cashman aims to do as well.
“I took a lot from what he did,” Cashman said. “But it’s also different when you’re dealing with 18 to 22-year-olds. He’s dealing with grown men. He’s dealing with 35-year-olds with families. It’s certainly not the same locker room, college to pro, but there’s a lot things he did that I hope I can be as successful.”
In his first couple weeks as an assistant coach for the Bobcats, Cashman has been trying to take those things he learned from his coaches and fold them into his own coaching style.
Being younger than the rest of the Bobcats’ coaching staff can work to Cashman’s advantage.
“It was only five years ago that I was playing for Rand,” Cashman said. “I know what it’s like to be in that locker room. I know the systems pretty well. I just think it’s easy for them to relate to me. It was only five years ago I was in college and went through the things off the ice too.
“I can see the plays through their eyes, as it was only last season I was making the same plays. I’ll be able to understand why they make a play and not make a play. It doesn’t make anybody happier when we turn the puck over at the blue line or make a bad pass. But I can see in their heads what they saw.”
Making these connections with the players has worked well for Cashman this season. He has helped coach the Bobcats to a 4-1 record entering Tuesday night’s game against Bentley.