Work hard, win games: Monarchs coach Rich Seeley's formula for success is simple and effectiveBy ALEX HALL
New Hampshire Union Leader
April 29. 2018 12:39AM
HOOKSETT - In the waning moments of practice last Tuesday morning at the Ice Den, Manchester Monarchs coach Rich Seeley lined his players up for a three-on-three drill.
Each time Seeley blew his whistle for a personnel change, a new batch of players battled as if it were a playoff game.
Seeley has an inherent ability to make his players give their all for him, Monarchs three-year captain David Kolomatis said.
"It's no question you're putting your head down and you're going to work for him," Kolomatis said. "You don't see that very often in a coach is a team that doesn't even ask questions. You know he put the work in so you're going to put the work in to make sure this goes accordingly."
In his three years behind the Manchester bench, Seeley has grown from a rookie coach into the leader of a consistent Kelly Cup-contending franchise.
The Monarchs have gone a combined 117-73-14-12 over the last three regular seasons and qualified for the playoffs each year, all under Seeley.
Manchester is currently in the midst of a North Division Finals series with the Adirondack Thunder. The Monarchs fell to Adirondack in the first round of the 2015-16 playoffs and eliminated the Thunder on their way to the Eastern Conference Finals last season.
Seeley, 38, is driven to make Manchester a constant fixture in the title picture but that is not his only goal as head coach. The former AHL Monarchs captain also wants to help his players develop so they can further their careers in the AHL, NHL or overseas.
The best way to achieve both, Seeley and his assistant coach, Nashua native Jeff Giuliano, have found, is to cultivate relationships with players built on open and honest conversations.
"That's what you want to make sure that it's about - making them better as individuals and our team better as a group," Seeley said. "That's how we view it. We don't want to just move guys on and not win. We want to move guys on, have them have success and win hockey games."
Seeley said creating those relationships starts in the summer during the first phone conversation he has with players recruiting them to come to Manchester.
Kolomatis, 29, remembers his phone call with Seeley about joining the Monarchs for their inaugural ECHL season three years ago. Seeley has not changed much through these past three campaigns, Kolomatis said.
"He's still the same person that picked up that phone and asked if I wanted to come play," Kolomatis said. "It says a lot of that consistency factor that what you see is what you get with him. ... It's been the same since Day 1 and obviously he's built that persona of this team that hey, this is a special place to play and a big reason is because (Seeley) is the coach."
Manchester forward Matt Leitner has spent most of the last three seasons with the Monarchs. The 27-year-old remembers how intense Seeley was during his first practice with the team. Seeley expects his players to show up each day with a positive attitude and a strong work ethic, Leitner said.
"... He's here every day and he's putting in his work," Leitner said. "It makes you look at yourself and be like, 'I can probably show up for two hours and give him what he wants.' And then you guys will have that mutual respect for each other."
The coaches meet with the players every three to four weeks, Seeley said. The topics discussed can range from hockey to who has family members coming to upcoming games and how things are at the Bedford apartment complex the players stay at during the season.
At times, Seeley has had to have difficult conversations with players in order to help them improve.
"It's about building relationships. It's not about having to be liked," Seeley said. "It's about trying to get the (maximum) out of those players and I think the relationship starts with the communication, for sure, and it starts in the summertime and it's built. But it doesn't always mean the player likes us or they like that situation. I'm hoping that they reflect back and at times, they'll go, 'Hey, you know what? They were right. That is key to my game or key to our game or success.'"
Leitner said Seeley is not going to be a player's best friend but he is a great coach.
"He controls the ship and he does a really good job of controlling the ship," Leitner said. "Even the older guys here, we all kind of fall in line and it starts with him."
With so many player transactions throughout the ECHL season, Seeley has learned he always has to be on the recruiting trail. He must communicate not just with his players but with those he would like to potentially add to the team.
Seeley cannot woo players with year-round sunshine and the chance to play golf after a February practice like other ECHL clubs can. What he does promote is the Monarchs' winning atmosphere, a chance to develop and the franchise's close proximity to AHL clubs for call-up opportunities.
"From my experience from playing, these guys here, they want to be part of a team," Seeley said. "They want to expand their role. They want to win hockey games. We're not making necessarily the living we want to make financially for the next 30 years. We don't have million-dollar contracts but we want to work towards that."
As much as Seeley has learned over his first three years coaching Manchester, he understands everything he has built relies on one factor: winning games. If the Monarchs are not successful, the formula Seeley and his staff have developed does not work, he said.
"I could go on for a very long-winded - as I usually do - conversation but if we don't win hockey games, how we function doesn't work," Seeley said. "The only way this works is if we're winning hockey games."