- Scott Powers, ESPN Staff Writer
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Jamie Kompon laughed as he began counting the number of flights he had taken over the last 10 days.
When he stopped, he realized he had been on 18 flights during that span.
“Really, it’s been great,” Kompon said during a phone interview from an airport in Colorado on Monday morning.
Kompon, who was a Chicago Blackhawks assistant coach the past two seasons, began his traveling when he was approached last week to interview for the head coach/general manager opening with the Portland Winterhawks of the Western Hockey League. He was later offered the job, and he accepted it after getting the blessing of Blackhawks coach Joel Quenneville.
Kompon has been arriving and departing from airports ever since.
“I told [Quenneville and Blackhawks assistant coach Mike Kitchen] what was going on and what they had in hand in Portland,” Kompon said. “[Quenneville] said, ‘At the end of the day, it’s too good of an opportunity to turn down. I can’t believe I’m saying this, but I’m letting you go.’
“This came out of the blue. This wasn’t something I was seeking or anything like that. I’ve really enjoyed the last two years. Obviously I have a strong relationship with both Joel and Mike. I’m not going to lie, I wouldn’t be the person and coach I am today without them.”
Kompon had a list of traits he hoped to carry over from working under Quenneville with the Blackhawks and previously with the St. Louis Blues.
“There’s a lot of different things -- the way he handled himself, the way he treats the game, not overcomplicating things, his demeanor with the team, how he empowers people,” Kompon said. “He trusts the assistant coaches to do their job and in turn gives us that rope, wants to hear our feedback. Everything is done together. I really cherish that. Everyone is all in this together.”
One of the major responsibilities Quenneville gave Kompon was coaching the team’s power play. The Blackhawks ranked 19th in the NHL with a 16.7 power-play percentage in the 2013 season and were tied for ninth with a 19.5 percentage this past season.
“At the start, it was a work in progress,” Kompon said. “I didn’t know them. Part of it was we never shot the puck enough. We had enough skill out there. We were unselfish. This year the big thing is we had the shot mentality. Everything opened up. Also our puck retrieval was excellent. Overall, it can still get better. I think there’s another level there.”
Kompon’s ultimate goal is to get back to the NHL as a head coach, but he first plans to learn and accomplish as much as he can in the WHL. He was excited about the challenges ahead of him and still riding a high from being named to the position.
“It’s a range of emotions,” he said. “It’s excitement. It’s overwhelming. I guess it’s everything you hope for because I’m going through all these ranges of emotion and I’m doing what I love to do. It’s been crazy. I’m just trying to get my feet under me.
“The one thing I can honestly say is I can’t thank [Blackhawks chairman] Rocky Wirtz and his family and entire Chicago Blackhawks, a first-class organization, enough. I was proud I was part of it and in turn we won a Cup. That bond never goes away. Your name is connected with the 50-plus people on the Cup. It’s an incredible feeling. I’ll never forget it.”