Wild coach Yeo renews friendship with Pittsburgh's Bylsma

  • Article by: KENT YOUNGBLOOD , Star Tribune
  • Updated: December 19, 2013 - 12:24 AM

The Wild coach is back in Pittsburgh to face his old boss, Dan Bylsma.

Pittsburgh Penguins assistant coach Mike Yeo raises the Stanley Cup after the Penguins beat the Detroit Red Wings 2-1 to win Game 7 of the NHL hockey Stanley Cup finals in Detroit, June 12, 2009. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

Photo: Paul Sancya, DML - ASSOCIATED PRESS

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

 

Every trip to Detroit is a reminder for Pittsburgh Penguins coach Dan Bylsma.

If the visiting locker room at Joe Louis Arena is small, the coaches’ room is claustrophobic. It was June 12, 2009, Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final against Detroit. Pittsburgh held a 2-0 lead after two periods. Bylsma and his assistant coaches were crammed into that tiny room, about to go out and talk to the team.

“You can imagine the energy and anxiety of that situation,” Bylsma said. So he turned to assistant Mike Yeo and asked him what key points, what reminders, they should give the team.

“Mike went through a litany,” Bylsma said, laughing. “Just a litany of, like, 25 things. ‘Get deep, sticks down, stay out of the box, short shifts,’ one after another. Finally I just said, ‘Mike, Mike, I got it. I can only give ’em three or four!’ I will never forget that.”

Bylsma laughed again. This memory was fresh, as his Penguins won in Detroit just last Saturday. And you can bet he will be ribbing his former assistant about that night when they talk Thursday.

Yeo, in his third season as the Wild’s head coach, will coach Minnesota against the Penguins on Thursday night in Pittsburgh. It will be his first regular-season game as a head coach in the city where he helped coach the Penguins to that 2009 championship. And while the arena might have changed, the memories are strong.

“I had the opportunity to work for two coaches there, and both taught me an awful lot,” Yeo said of Michel Therrien and Bylsma, who took over the Penguins in February of 2009, only months before that tense, exciting Game 7 in Detroit. “As much as anything else, both Mike [Therrien] and Dan gave me so much opportunity that, when I came here, I didn’t feel like a rookie coach.’’

Strong Penguins roots

Time has made this return to Pittsburgh less emotional than it would have been earlier in his career with the Wild. Still, Yeo had deep ties to the Pittsburgh organization. He was an assistant there for four seasons, winning one Stanley Cup. Before that he was an assistant coach at Wilkes-Barre/Scranton, the Penguins’ AHL affiliate. Yeo, who ran the power play and the defense for Bylsma, had a strong relationship with Penguins star Sidney Crosby. Yeo’s children also were heavily involved in youth hockey there.

Yeo left the city to assume the head coaching job for the Wild’s top minor league team. After a year coaching the Houston Aeros, Yeo was named head coach of the Wild before the 2011-12 season. Anybody who watches Yeo coach the Wild sees the attention to detail, the intensity, the work ethic. Folks who were around him in Pittsburgh saw it first.

“A very smart, hardworking guy,” said Ray Shero, Pittsburgh’s executive vice president and general manager. “And he always was looking to improve as a coach. He always asked the right questions. He was a hard-nosed player, and he was intense as an assistant coach.’’

Bylsma said he leaned heavily on Yeo’s experience after taking over the team late in the championship season. Bylsma inherited an underperforming team and led it to an 18-3-4 record in the 25 games to close the 2008-09 season.

“I could not have done the job anywhere near as well as I did without Mike’s experience and familiarity with the team,” Bylsma said. “Every day, with Mike, you see the work ethic.”

Mutual admiration

Yeo, meanwhile, learned a lot from Bylsma, who again has the Penguins flying high despite a slew of injuries.

“He’s extremely smart, and I think he’s ahead of the curve,” Yeo said of Bylsma. “He had a great confidence and demeanor. The way he was able to present things and communicate with the players was great.’’

Perhaps Yeo will feel some extra emotions when his team hits the ice Thursday.

“I was fortunate with the people I worked with and the players I had a chance to coach,” Yeo said. “The city itself. It was a good time for me.”

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

New England 2/1/15 5:30 PM
Seattle
Portland 0 Postponed
Brooklyn 0
Sacramento 0 Postponed
New York 0
Philadelphia 74 FINAL
New Orleans 99
Minnesota 84 FINAL
Oklahoma City 92
Orlando 94 FINAL
Memphis 103
Boston 99 FINAL
Utah 90
Denver 98 FINAL
LA Clippers 102
Army 68 FINAL
American Univ 66
Wright State 64 FINAL
Detroit 53
Syracuse 83 FINAL
North Carolina 93
Cleveland State 56 FINAL
Oakland 59
Delaware State 54 FINAL
NC Central 55
High Point 63 FINAL
Presbyterian 54
Howard 45 FINAL
Bethune-Cookman 42
Coppin State 84 FINAL
NC A&T 71
Nicholls 51 FINAL
Northwestern St 80
Hampton 56 FINAL
SC State 65
Gardner-Webb 59 FINAL
Campbell 78
MD-Eastern Shore 72 FINAL
Florida A&M 65
Stephen F Austin 82 FINAL
Lamar 65
Central Arkansas 67 FINAL
New Orleans 87
Norfolk State 70 FINAL
Savannah State 54
TX A&M-CC 70 FINAL
SE Louisiana 61
Sam Houston St 80 FINAL
Abilene Christian 63
McNeese State 84 FINAL
Incarnate Word 86
Milwaukee 48 FINAL
Valparaiso 73
Alcorn State 66 FINAL
Alabama A&M 78
Southern U 59 FINAL
Alabama State 63
Prairie View 68 FINAL
Ark-Pine Bluff 105
Texas 86 FINAL
Iowa State 89
Texas Southern 85 FINAL
Miss Valley St 84
Long Island 85 FINAL
Bryant 88
Central Conn St 51 FINAL
St Francis-NY 49
Fairleigh Dickinson 0 Postponed
Sacred Heart 0
St Francis-PA 87 FINAL
Wagner 74
Delaware State 59 FINAL
NC Central 66
Howard 53 FINAL
Bethune-Cookman 61
Coppin State 49 FINAL
NC A&T 67
Hampton 88 FINAL
SC State 53
Norfolk State 54 FINAL
Savannah State 56
MD-Eastern Shore 54 FINAL
Florida A&M 64
Angelo State 55 FINAL
Abilene Christian 70
Samford 32 FINAL
(25) Chattanooga 49
Prairie View 83 FINAL
Ark-Pine Bluff 66
Alcorn State 58 FINAL
Alabama A&M 55
Southern U 53 FINAL
Alabama State 49
Texas Southern 63 FINAL
Miss Valley St 52
(12) Texas A&M 61 FINAL
(1) South Carolina 79
Robert Morris 68 FINAL
Mount St Marys 44
East Tenn St 72 FINAL
Mercer 70
Wofford 56 FINAL
Furman 58
Morehead St 64 FINAL
Tenn Tech 54
Illinois 57 FINAL
Michigan 70
Quinnipiac 0 Postponed
Manhattan 0
Saint Peters 0 Postponed
Rider 0
(18) Miss State 59 FINAL
Auburn 48
(15) Nebraska 72 FINAL
(20) Iowa 78
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Does a Stadium Series outdoor Wild game get you excited?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close