Joel Ward isn’t sure how the nickname started in Washington other than it had something to do with being the big man on campus.
To this day, he still gets text messages from former Capitals teammates asking how “Big Cheese” is doing.
“It kind of stuck,” Ward said. “Someone says ‘Big Cheese,’ I turn around and look and see who’s calling for me.”
With a nickname like that, and the affable personality to match, it was only natural Ward would find his way into coaching when his playing career was done.
Now, the first-year Silver Knights assistant is passing on the knowledge he gained from 11 seasons in the NHL and serving as a role model for aspiring Black and other minority coaches.
“I think it’s just opening more doors and giving kids more hope to join this game and be part of it in some aspect, whether it’s playing on the ice or being part of it off the ice,” the 40-year-old said. “I learned so much over the years, it’d be a shame if I kept that to myself and not be able to share it with a few guys. It’s something that I definitely wanted to try and pursue post-playing.”
Ward traveled a winding path to the NHL, playing four seasons at the University of Prince Edward Island before he signed with the Minnesota Wild organization in 2005 and was assigned to Houston of the American Hockey…