Head Coach Rob Collins
March 12, 2020
by Ryan Hill
Rob Collins began his junior hockey career as a teenager with the Elmira Sugar Kings for the 1996-97 season. He put up 77 points in 48 games as well as adding 108 penalty minutes and certainly turned some heads.
His second season in Elmira proved the first wasn’t a fluke as Collins produced a league leading 100 points as well as 101 penalty minutes in just 43 games. Clearly destined for more, he then moved to the NCAA to play Division I hockey with Ferris State University for four seasons and was a Hobey Baker finalist in his final season.
Collins then, carved out a successful campaign in the AHL for parts of five seasons and even played a handful of games at the NHL level with the New York Islanders in 2005-06. After that season, Collins moved to the professional hockey league in Germany and spent 10 years playing over 500 games in the DEL.
In a few days, Collins will turn 42 years old but he is back with the organization where it all began, this time as the head coach.
“To be honest, it wasn’t something I really pursued,” Collins said about becoming a coach. “I reached out when I was done playing just to be apart of things.”
The two people Collins contacted to get reinvolved with Elmira were Sugar Kings Director of Hockey Operations, Jeff Snyder and General Manager, Kevin Bloch; his former coaches when Collins played for the organization 20 years prior.
“I’ve know Jeff Snyder and Kevin Bloch a long time. I’ve got a lot for respect for both of them and if I could pay anything forward I felt as though I owed that to the game and I wanted to give that back.”
Collins began as an assistant coach in 2018-19 with the Sugar Kings and was promoted to head coach halfway through the year. This season is his first full year as head coach and Collins doesn’t regret the decision to get behind the bench.
“Coaching wasn’t really an aspiration of mine, but the more and more I was around it, I realized I enjoyed being around the game again and I’ve enjoyed it since.”
With the little experience Collins has had coaching, he and his staff are doing an incredible job, and the systems and strategies they preach to their team are working just as planned.
“What it comes down to are the inputs and the controllables, being consistent, knowing and doing your job, attitude, all stuff that has nothing to do with talent that is totally controllable.”
Collins believes that predictability and communication are essential for the team to know what they’re going to get out of every game.
“People talk about, ‘how do we get this guy to reach his ceiling or potential’ but what we focus on is raising your floor, I want to know what your minimum is because the higher your minimum is, the easier it is to reach your potential.”
Collins refuses to take all the credit for Elmira’s success. He wants to shine more light on the other members of the Sugar Kings coaching staff Joe Amlinger and Scott McMillan.
“The head coach sometimes gets too much credit but we’re a three headed beast, it just so happens that my job title is different from theirs.”
February 21, 2020
by Ryan Hill
“First coming to Elmira I was very excited and it was definitely an open ended experience,” said Anthony Azzano. “They really lived up to expectations I had of being an A grade organization. They are helpful with players, they accommodate everyone very well.”
Since his arrival, the self described two-way defenceman has spent three seasons with the Sugar Kings collecting 52 points in 133 games and has become a reliable veteran presence on the blue-line. He was also a member of the 2016-17 Sutherland Cup Championship team. Now the 20-year-old, in his final season of Jr. B eligibility, will aim to make the most of his last run with playoffs knocking at the door.
“Our forwards and defenceman this year, we have a lot of depth on both ends, as well as Greg Brassard who is a stellar goalie. I feel like our depth will make it very tough for other teams to compete and it will give us an edge for sure.”
The Sugar Kings won their conference by 10 points and have had consistency all year, Azzano believes having a great coaching staff and leadership by players is the key to that success.
“We call it the ‘huggies’ which is don’t get too friendly on the ice. We don’t take opponents lightly and we come in with the same frame of mind game in and game out.”
However the biggest factor for this season has been the team morale and how everyone involved is buying in.
“We bonded so quickly as a group at the start of the year, it helped us with success early on and consistency throughout the year. Everyone is sticking together no matter what the circumstances of the games are.”