CEDAR PARK — The Texas Stars celebrated the 2014 Calder Cup Championship at a rally Thursday night, but head coach Willie Desjardins wasn’t in attendance.
It wasn’t officially confirmed, but it’s believed Desjardins was on his way to Pittsburgh, where the Penguins are close to making a final decision on their next head coach.
Multiple media outlets reported Penguins general manager Jim Rutherford has already conducted a phone interview with Desjardins. The Sports Network’s Darren Dreger also reported details are being finalized on a possible contract.
Stars assistant coach Doug Lidster acknowledged Desjardins’ absence when he addressed the crowd at the Cedar Park Center.
“Willie couldn’t be here tonight. You can kind of guess where he might be. So I’m going to do my best to fill in tonight. I’ve even got a white board,” Lidster said, joking about Desjardins’ nickname ‘Whiteboard Willie.’
While Desjardins missed the championship celebration, he has the organization’s blessing to pursue his first NHL head coaching job.
“He will be successful in the National Hockey League. All he needs is an opportunity, and a good one,” Dallas Stars president and CEO Jim Lites said. “It’s one of those love-hate things. We’d love to keep him, but we really want him to get where he wants to be. … We don’t think he’ll be here next year.”
Desjardins’ absence didn’t detract from the championship rally. After opening remarks from team officials, each of the players had a chance to lift the cup and address the crowd.
“This is the best crowd in the league,” Stars captain Maxime Fortunus said. “It’s louder here than it was in St. John’s.”
Petersen retires: Toby Petersen announced his retirement from hockey on Thursday. The 35-year-old played 14 professional seasons, including 398 games in the NHL. In his final season, he appeared in just 40 combined regular- season and playoff games because of injury.
“I’ve known for months that it was the right decision. There is never really a good time to tell anyone since we were still playing,” Petersen said. “After the first surgery, I was leaning that way, then I broke my foot. Those were some of the factors that led to my decision.”