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From Division III Assistant Coach To Original Six Head Coach, Derek Lalonde Took The Scenic Route To The NHL

Scott Audette. Getty Images.

On this week's Spittin' Chiclets, Red Wings head coach Derek Lalonde joined the guys to shoot the shit about the Wings, his time in Tampa, and his first ever coaching gig at North Adams State College in scenic North Adams, MA. 

STATE is where I met Derek for the first time in 1995. He came to the leafy northwestern corner of Massachusetts to work as a graduate assistant under Woburn legend Jimmy Duran and earn his masters degree. I worked at the hockey office for my work-study gig (after getting 'fired' from another place on campus) and we hit it off right away. 

Even though we're just three months apart, 'Newsy' had already graduated from SUNY-Cortland while I was on the Belushi Plan (read: a 23-year-old junior). He was greasing the skids for a teaching career while I was making my bones at The Beacon, hoping to write for a newspaper some day (til the Internet said 'SONK'). We last saw each other in 1998 on an alumni visit and then life happens, you blink, and it's 20 years later. 

About three or four years ago, our mutual friend Evie called and said, "Did you know Lalonde is a Tampa assistant?". "Get the fuck outta here," I replied, disbelieving that a North Adams grad assistant for a DIII team on its deathbed would rise to join the NHL ranks. But indeed it happened. So Evie put us back in touch with each other after a long lay-off.

In December of 2020, I flew down to Treasure Island, FL to escape COVID cabin fever and go where COVID didn't exist. While there I got a text from Derek: "You're in town and you didn't hit me up? Come to Four Green Fields Monday for our video guy's Cup party." Twist my arm.

It was the first time we'd seen each other in 20 years and it was fantastic to catch up in person. Neither of us had hair nor were we at our fighting weight anymore. But otherwise, not much changed. Except that Derek was a Stanley Cup winner and the hockey podcast I co-founded was doing alright. I cheers'd his beer. "Not too bad for a couple guys from STATE, eh?"

He also introduced me to some fans as well.

Elsewhere on the show, Whit went in on Leafs fans.

Murls gives his Rocket Richard pick and unveils a new name for a guy (officially making him part of the Chiclets crew).


If you're grabbing beers to watch hockey this week, Spittin' Chiclets has the brew for you. Big Deal Brewing.

It's a delicious and crushable golden ale. Check with your local packies and if they don't have, request it.