Head coach Woodcroft unafraid of hard miles on long road to Edmonton Oilers

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Oilers head coach Jay Woodcroft reacts on the bench during the Western Conference final against the Colorado Avalanche. Edmonton signed Woodcroft to a three-year contract extension on Tuesday. Photo by Walter Tychnowicz /USA TODAY Sports Article content

After 10 years spent building his reputation as a solid NHL assistant coach, there were more comfortable options for Jay Woodcroft in the fall of 2018 than riding buses around the American Hockey League.

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He had proven his worth as an excellent tactician and quality person in seven years with the San Jose Sharks and three more with the Edmonton Oilers and, with his connections, it wouldn’t have taken long before he was an assistant again somewhere else.

Charter flights. Big NHL cities. Luxury hotels. The good life. Instead, he chose the buses.

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It seemed crazy at the time — AHL miles are hard, thankless miles — but it was all part of a long game that paid off Tuesday when Woodcroft signed a three-year contract to be head coach of the Oilers.

“I had the belief that I had what it took to become a National Hockey League head coach,” said the 45-year-old, who felt the best way to get there was the long and winding road through Bakersfield.

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