Long before Greg Cronin’s coaching stints in the AHL or time on the coaching staffs of the Toronto Maple Leafs and New York Islanders, as a young assistant coach, he had a brief and up-close view of an electrifying player named Paul Kariya at the University of Maine in 1993.
Nearly 30 years later, Cronin was named coach of the Ducks, and one of the retired jerseys hanging in the rafters at Honda Center, indeed, belongs to Kariya, the Hockey Hall of Famer.
If it’s not a full circle moment for the 60-year-old Cronin, it’s close enough for the hockey lifer, who has spent the past five seasons coaching the Colorado Eagles in the AHL, the top minor-league affiliate of the Colorado Avalanche.
“While we did cast a wide net in searching for the next head coach, it became clear to me that Greg would be the ideal fit for the position,” said Ducks GM Pat Verbeek in a statement announcing the hiring on Monday.
“Being a young team, I felt we needed a teacher of the finer points of the game, and someone who has worked extensively over time with talented young players, helping them develop into successful NHL players.
“Greg has done all that and more, and we are excited to name him head coach of the Anaheim Ducks.”
Cronin is the Ducks’ 11th coach, succeeding Dallas Eakins, whose contract was not renewed after a regular season in which the Ducks finished last in the NHL. Eakins coached the Ducks for four seasons, going 100-147-44, and had been with the organization for eight overall, previously coaching AHL San Diego.
“I’m excited and honored to be named head coach of the Anaheim Ducks,” said Cronin in a statement. “This team has a fantastic future ahead, and I’m very grateful to the Samueli family and Pat Verbeek for entrusting me with this amazing opportunity.”
The extensive search to replace Eakins was conducted by Verbeek, who considered a wide range of candidates. The long list was said to have included Kirk Muller, Mike Vellucci, Spencer Carbery, Travis Green and Andrew Brunette.
Kariya was part of the search committee involved in the hiring of Verbeek in February of 2022. While he doesn’t have an official title with the Ducks, Karyia is more like an unofficial advisor, and has said he “was always available and the organization knows that.”
With Cronin, there are several other intriguing Ducks’ links beyond Kariya. In Toronto, he was on the coaching staff of Randy Carlyle, who coached the Ducks when they won the Stanley Cup championship in 2007 and later would return for another stint in Anaheim, from 2016-2019
“I think he’s got a relationship with Paul Kariya, which is a strong one. He’s paid his dues,” Carlyle said in an interview with the Orange County Register. “He fits what they’re looking for at this time. He can do a heck of a job. He’s a good person, a good coach.
“When he gets immersed, that’s what he is going to do 24 hours a day.”
The task ahead of Cronin with the Ducks is a daunting one. But Carlyle watched him handle difficult assignments with the Maple Leafs. Cronin was an assistant coach with the Maple Leafs from 2011 to 2014.
“If anybody had a strong relationship with Phil Kessel, it was Greg Cronin and Phil wasn’t the easiest guy to get to and Cro found a way to get to him,” Carlyle said. “And he (Cronin) has that way about him. He’s not warm and fuzzy.”
From Carlyle that could be considered the highest of compliments.