Worcester Sharks Head Coach Roy Sommer, who plays a major role in developing players for the San Jose Sharks, is currently the longest-tenured coach in the American Hockey League.
The native of Oakland, Calif. returns for his 12th season behind the bench of San Jose’s top development affiliate and his 14th season overall with the Sharks organization. In his 11 seasons as head coach, Sommer has compiled a 393-377-54-56 record in the regular season and has reached the postseason six times including last year’s Division Finals.
As coach of the Sharks top development affiliate, Sommer has coached more than 70 players who have spent time in the National Hockey League, including 2005-06 Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy winner Jonathan Cheechoo. In 2008-09, the San Jose Sharks featured 21 players on their roster that had spent time under Sommer’s tutelage through the developmental system. Adding to his stellar resume of development, 11 players made their NHL debut with the Sharks over the last two seasons, including Derek Joslin, Jamie McGinn, Brad Staubitz and Ryan Vesce last year.
From 1999-01 with the Kentucky Thoroughblades, the Sharks top development team before the franchise’s move to Cleveland, Sommer’s club went 84-50-21-5 to capture two consecutive Mid-Atlantic Division titles and went to the Calder Cup Playoffs each season. Sommer’s success was recognized during the 1999-00 season with his selection as the head coach for the Canadian All-Star Team at the AHL’s mid-season classic, where his squad toppled PlanetUSA, 8-3.
During his first season in Kentucky (1998-99), the Thoroughblades registered franchise records for most regular season wins (44), most road wins (21) and total points (98) in a season while posting the league’s fifth best record. This success came despite having 17 players on Kentucky’s roster promoted to the NHL at some point during the season.
Before being named head coach of the Thoroughblades in 1998, Sommer, 51, spent two seasons (1996-98) as an assistant coach with the San Jose Sharks. With the NHL Sharks, Sommer was responsible for pre-scouting upcoming opponents for their offensive and defensive tendencies, line combinations and special teams tactics. In addition, he assisted in running practices and provided special on-ice extended workouts with scratched players and those rehabilitating injuries.
Before Sommer joined San Jose, he was head coach of the ECHL’s Richmond Renegades from 1991-96 and was named 1995-96 Coach of the Year after leading his team to a league-best 46-11-13 mark and a league record 105 points in capturing the Brabham Cup (best regular season record). Sommer led the Renegades to the Riley Cup (league playoff championship) in 1994-95 after posting a 41-20-7 regular season record. In addition, he served as head coach of the ECHL’s East All-Star Team in 1994-95 and the North All-Star Team in 1995-96. Sommer’s additional ice hockey coaching experience includes assistant coaching stints with the Albany Choppers and Muskegon Lumberjacks of the International Hockey League and working with USA Hockey as an assistant coach at several evaluation camps for 16- and 17-year-old players.
In 1998, he served as head coach and general manager for the silver-medal winning Team USA (4-1-0 record) at the International Ice Hockey Federation In-Line Hockey World Championships in Anaheim. Sommer led his squad to gold medal finishes in each of the first two tournaments (1996 in St. Paul, Minn. and 1997 in Anaheim) and posted undefeated records each year. His three-year coaching mark at this prestigious tournament stands at 17-1-0.
The former Bay Area youth hockey player coached Roller Hockey International’s San Jose Rhinos for three seasons (1994-96), including capturing the 1995 Murphy Cup (league championship). In addition, Sommer served as head coach for RHI’s 1996 Western Conference All-Star Team.
Before stepping behind the bench, Sommer played nine seasons of professional ice hockey. A sixth round selection by the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1977, Sommer played in the Leafs system as well as those of the St. Louis Blues, Edmonton Oilers, New Jersey Devils and Pittsburgh Penguins. The highlight of Sommer’s NHL career came during the 1980-81 season when, as a teammate of Wayne Gretzky, Sommer scored a goal in his NHL debut with the Edmonton Oilers.
He served as captain of the Wichita Wind from 1980-83 and again with Muskegon in 1986-87. Sommer, who played left wing and center during his career, was a member of the AHL Calder Cup Champion Maine Mariners in 1983-84 and helped lead Muskegon to the IHL title (Turner Cup) in 1985-86. He played his junior hockey for the Spruce Grove Mets, which won the 1975 Centennial Cup, and for the Calgary Centennials. Sommer was a member of the United States National Team at the World Junior Championships in 1976-77.
Sommer currently resides in Shrewsbury, Mass. with his wife Melissa and his three children: Marley, Kastien and Kyra.