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San Jose Sharks Appoint First Jewish Head Coach in 30 Years

Ryan Warsofsky brings a fresh perspective as the youngest coach in the league.

For the first time in over three decades, an NHL team will be led by a Jewish head coach. On Thursday, Ryan Warsofsky was named head coach of the San Jose Sharks, following his tenure as an assistant coach with the team. At 36, Warsofsky is also the youngest coach in the 32-team league and faces a significant decision early in his role: the Sharks, who finished with the worst record in the NHL last season, hold the top pick in next week’s NHL draft.

“This is an exciting time for myself, my family, and the Sharks organization to move forward,” Warsofsky expressed during an emotional introductory press conference on Monday afternoon.

Warsofsky’s appointment adds to the growing Jewish presence in the NHL. This season saw at least 15 Jewish players on the ice, including Edmonton Oilers winger Zach Hyman, the Hughes brothers—Jack, Luke, and Quinn—and Sharks center Luke Kunin.

Born in Marshfield, Mass., Warsofsky comes from a family with Jewish roots. His brother David, who played parts of five seasons in the NHL, shared on the Canadian Jewish News’ “Menschwarmers” podcast that their father is Jewish and the family celebrated Hanukkah with their grandparents.

Warsofsky played one professional season in 2011-2012 in various lower-level leagues in the U.S. and the Netherlands. He began his coaching career the following year as an assistant at his alma mater, Division III Curry College in Milton, Mass. Warsofsky then spent five seasons in the minor leagues, including two as a head coach, before advancing to the American Hockey League, where he led two teams over four seasons and secured two championships.

He joined the Sharks as an assistant coach in 2022 and also served as an assistant coach for Team USA in the International Ice Hockey Federation World Championship, where the U.S. team finished fourth.

The last Jewish head coach in the NHL was Bob Plager during the 1992-1993 season, when he led the St. Louis Blues for 11 games. Before Plager, Cecil Hart, who coached the Montreal Canadiens for nine seasons in the 1920s and 1930s, was the most notable Jewish NHL coach, winning back-to-back Stanley Cup titles in 1930 and 1931. The NHL’s Hart Memorial Trophy, awarded annually to the league’s most valuable player, was donated by Hart’s father David. Hart is also a member of the International Jewish Sports Hall of Fame.

Warsofsky may soon be joined by another Jewish head coach. Jeff Halpern, an assistant coach for the Tampa Bay Lightning since 2018, has been linked to multiple head coaching vacancies, including the Sharks’. Halpern played 14 seasons in the NHL and is a member of the Greater Washington Jewish Sports Hall of Fame.

With his appointment, Warsofsky not only brings fresh energy to the San Jose Sharks but also continues a legacy of Jewish contributions to professional hockey, marking a significant moment in the league's history.

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