Fighting days behind him, Sheldon Brookbank finds his way back to Blackhawks

Former Blackhawks defenseman Sheldon Brookbank was never the type of player who would allow an opponent to bully one of his teammates. On more than 40 occasions over his eight-season NHL career, Brookbank took matters into his own hands and dropped his gloves.

But Brookbank’s fighting days are over now that he’s behind the bench. And honestly, that’s been hard for Brookbank to accept at times.

Asked what’s been the most challenge part of transitioning from a player to a coach, Brookbank said Saturday it was not being able to physically stick up for his players.

“Sometimes when guys are on the ice or acting up, you don’t have a hand in it anymore,” he said. “You get a little fired up on the bench just watching guys stick guys on your team, and it’s out of your hands.”

Brookbank, who played his final two NHL seasons with the Hawks and helped them win the Stanley Cup in 2013, is back in Chicago — only this time as an assistant to coach Jeremy Colliton.

The move to promote Brookbank from Rockford had been the plan all along, according to Colliton. But the Hawks waited because they wanted to stabilize Rockford before pulling another key member from its coaching staff.

Colliton doesn’t have a specific role for Brookbank, who helped him lead Rockford to its first AHL Western Conference Finals last season. But Brookbank believes one of his strengths will be his ability to communicate with the players.

“The job for assistant coaches is to be this sort of in-between for the coaching staff and the players,” said Brookbank, who was teammates with seven current Hawks players. “I have a leg up in that sense, that I know some of these guys already.”

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