Due to past coaching experiences, strong relationships with the players and his faith in God, Brad Larsen confidently steps into his new role as the head coach of the Columbus Blue Jackets. He was announced as the franchise’s eighth head coach last week.
Larsen is no stranger to the NHL, having played for the Atlanta Thrashers and Colorado Avalanche for a total of eight seasons. During his career, he tallied 19 goals and 29 assists.
He then moved into coaching and spent two seasons as the head coach of the Springfield Falcons in the developmental American Hockey League. He joined the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2014 as an assistant coach, a position he kept until accepting the top job.
In a press conference Friday, Larsen addressed how he would command the team.
“You don’t try to copy a man’s style at all,” Larsen said when asked whether his team would look similar to that of his predecessor, John Tortorella. “I think the advice I got when I took coaching was, you always be true to yourself and that is what I am going to be.”
"The most rewarding thing [as a coach] is when you see a team come together and play with that fire and passion."
— Columbus Blue Jackets (@BlueJacketsNHL) June 11, 2021
As a former player himself, Larsen is equipped to help current players with the challenges of the NHL.
“That’s the joy of coaching is when you see progress with your players, you connect with them and you’re there to help, you’re there to nurture, and not just as athletes all the time, but as people,” Larsen said. “That’s the thing we forget about (is) there’s such a human element.”
While Larsen has faced similar challenges to contemporary players, he has also undergone hardships that a majority of NHL players have not. Twice during his professional career, he was diagnosed with cancer, which he proceeded to beat.
The first instance happened while he was a Thrasher, when a dermatologist diagnosed him with melanoma. Two days later, Larsen underwent an operation to have the cancer removed from his back. The operation was successful.
A few seasons later, while playing for the Portland Pirates in the AHL, Larsen again faced cancer. This time, it was testicular cancer, which forced Larsen to spend three weeks being treated with radiation.
Throughout all the adversity he has faced in his career, Larsen has learned a simple truth: God uses adversity as a catalyst for growth.
“The biggest growth for me as a person, father, husband and coach has always come through adversity,” Larsen said on the Sport Spectrum Podcast in January. “The winning’s easy. That’s just the end product and you get to enjoy those moments, but really the true growth spiritually and every aspect of my life has come through some kind of adversity, and you’ve kind of plowed through. Now, watching God working through that, it’s almost poetic at times.”
Larsen has been open about his faith in God and about his journey to becoming a believer. He said that it was only when his daughter was born that he realized God must exist.
“Whatever you believe, only God can do this,” Larsen said on the podcast. “I don’t know who that god is, but there is a god that is doing this because this makes no sense.”
Larsen has learned that in everything, God has a plan.
“God is working and using me as [He sees] fit. I’m just trying to be obedient and trust what His plan is,” Larsen said.
God’s plan now has Larsen serving Him through coaching the Blue Jackets. As he and the team gear up for the 2021-22 NHL season, they’ll look to improve on the 18-26 record from this past season.
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