When Dallas General Manager Jim Nill began interviews for the Stars’ vacant coaching job, the first call went to Lindy Ruff.
“I said to Jim when I first agreed to meet with him, ‘I’ll meet with you, but we can’t meet in the crease,’” Ruff said Friday.
The history between Ruff and the team that earned a controversial Stanley Cup victory over him in 1999 is unavoidable. Ruff also can’t hide his passion to coach. The present took precedence over the past as Ruff has agreed to become the Stars’ bench boss, signing a four-year deal.
Though he didn’t go as far as to say Brett Hull really did score despite having his foot in the crease against the Buffalo Sabres, Ruff is ready to put the “No Goal” saga behind him.
“I’ve gotten past that,” Ruff said at his introductory news conference in Dallas. “I’m a coach. I want to coach. I think this is an unbelievable opportunity. It all worked out great for Dallas, didn’t work out so good for us back then.
“I can tell you one thing: That same emotion and same passion will be back here in Dallas if the same type of thing happens because that’s the fire I have and that’s what you’re going to look forward to. I was young at the time, emotional. I let it all hang out. I still have a lot of emotion when it comes to coaching.”
The passion is what convinced Nill to make the hire.
“I could see the fire in his eyes,” the GM said. “He’s ready to go. That’s what really excited me when I talked to him.”
Ruff, 53, knows there will be a transition period after spending half his life in Buffalo, including 16 years behind the bench. But he’s been thinking about it since getting fired in February, and he’s prepared to move on from Sabreland.
“When you coach for that number of years and in the same place, the exciting part for me is in talking to a lot of other coaches – from former coaches here to coaches that have gone from organization to organization – how it revitalized them, energized them,” Ruff said. “I’m excited about the personnel that I’m working with. I’m excited about the ownership. I’m excited about working with Jim and all the experiences he had working in Detroit. It was just a real good fit.”
The type of game played in the Western Conference differs from the East, so Ruff plans to watch tapes of Western games during the next few months to help him create a system that’ll work. He thinks it can with a club that has missed five straight postseasons.
“I’m really excited and really looking forward to helping this club with their resurgence,” Ruff said. “I think we’ve got a good, young, talented team that I’m really looking forward to working with and helping them get back in the playoffs and win a Stanley Cup.”