The Johnstown Tomahawks had to look no further than their recent past in their search for the team’s new assistant coach, tabbing former player Matt Williams for the position as the team began training camp activities this week.
Williams, who was traded to Johnstown late in the Tomahawks’ inaugural 2012-2013 season, fills the vacancy left by Mike Letizia’s promotion to head coach in June.
Following his tenure with the Tomahawks, Williams played at Lake Forest College near Chicago and transferred to Western Michigan shortly before being diagnosed with Hodgkins Lymphoma last year. With the cancer now fully in remission, Williams said he is excited to begin the next phase of his hockey career.
“I am absolutely thrilled to return to the Tomahawks to begin my coaching career. After playing here, I understand what it takes to be successful in this league and what it means to be a player for the Tomahawks. I’m not that far removed from playing, so that’s going to help me relay to the players what it is going to take for us to reach our goal of bringing a championship to Johnstown.”
Letizia said he expects Williams to bring many of the same attributes he had as a player to his new role.
“When we traded for him, he was a leader from the first time he walked into the locker room. Everyone looked up to him and followed his lead when it came to his character and his approach to the game, on and off the ice,” he said.
General Manager Rick Boyd said Williams stood out as a strong coaching candidate because of his performance not only as a player, but as a volunteer helping with camps after his NAHL eligibility had expired.
“He took on a leadership role and made a first impression that truly lasted,” he said. “Our coaching staff compliments each other very well, and I can’t wait to see how they prepare our players to compete this season.”
In his new role, Williams will assist players with on- and off-ice player development and conditioning, as well as coordinating game plans and practice plans with Letizia.
“We’re extremely pleased to have Matt officially back in the Tomahawks family,” Team President Rick Bouchard said. “With his character, his playing experience, and his knowledge, he is going to have a tremendous impact in helping our players reach their highest potential.”
The Tomahawks begin the regular season on the road Sept. 13. Johnstown’s home opener is Oct. 25 against the new in-state rival, the Keystone Ice Miners.
Season ticket packages are available now, with 14-game flex plans starting at under $99. For more information, go to www.johnstowntomahawks.com or call 814-536-4625.