Former Sharks player, coach, broadcaster Zettler giving back mentoring youth hockey hopefuls
Rob Zettler played 569 games in the NHL over 10 seasons, including nearly 200 games with the San Jose Sharks in the early 1990s.
More than skill, Zettler said his commitment to stay motivated to play the game kept him going until he retired after the 2001-02 season.
These days, Zettler is working with former teammate Adam Oates to pass along their knowledge and love for the game to the next crop of hockey hopefuls.
“I played with Adam for three years with the Washington Capitals and I think there has always been a mutual respect for our work ethic, passion for the game and love for teaching it,” said Zettler. “Adam started his business (Oates Sports Group) about four years ago and I had been watching it grow and hearing firsthand about how he is mentoring and developing players. His client list speaks for itself – he has been helping the best players in the NHL get better – and that was impressive. We had a number of conversations and shared ideas on how working together would allow us to reach more players interested in this elite level of training.”
One thing led to another and Zettler came aboard.
“Adam was already getting phone calls from the top players in college, junior, AHL and prep school,” Zettler said. “We both knew we could help players in the NHL improve and it made sense to add another layer to the business to give these players more access to this brand of training. Bottom line is we help the best players in the game become better through mentorship, on-ice work, video review, and most importantly, an ongoing, personal relationship.”
Zettler is hopeful the program can expand to the Western United States in due time.
“The hockey world on the East Coast and in Canada knows about us,” said Zettler. “The best players in the game come to Oates Sports Group to get better. I want to establish that same brand recognition in the West. I have a number of clients on the East Coast, in Canada, and at some of the top universities and best prep schools in the country. It has been really exciting to watch them take the knowledge I provide and translate it to immediate results on the ice. The best part has been growing the relationship and feeling the trust they have in me knowing that I have their best interest in mind.
Between playing and coaching, Zettler has over 30 years of NHL experience to share. Aside from playing with the Sharks and Capitals, he also skated for the Nashville Predators, Minnesota North Stars, Philadelphia Flyers and Toronto Maple Leafs.
Zettler has also coached with Toronto and in two different stints with the Sharks. He’s also been a head coach with the AHL’s Syracuse Crunch.
“Being the first player to be a Shark was pretty cool and I think I hold the Sharks record for most times being hired by the organization – once as a player, once as a broadcaster, immediately after retiring from playing, then twice as a coach,” laughed Zettler. “When I think about my time in San Jose, I keep coming back to opportunity – the chance to make the team better and help them win. I feel that same excitement when I get a new client. I immediately dive deep into their game and start thinking of ways of helping them succeed. I met my wife in San Jose and started a family here. I plan to stay on the West Coast and continue to help hockey thrive.
“I make my home in San Jose, and I know we have a lot of really good players in California and in the West. I can help them get better. When I go on the ice with clients, it is not with 20 players and it is not about conditioning or staying busy. I go on with two or three players, which allows me to teach much more effectively. With this type of one-on-one coaching and mentoring, I see much more in a player than I would with a group or team. I can watch the players’ stride, how they execute a pivot, their shot release, and defensive posture. I can give tailored advice to a player on positioning and how to think the game based upon his or her specific position and strengths. Through on-ice and video instruction, we can give a player the skill set to increase awareness and vision while helping them to avoid injury and play a calmer game which translates to on-ice success.”
Zettler admitted that throughout his coaching career, he always took great interest in personal player development.
“Now I have the opportunity to use what I’ve learned to pursue that passion in the ideal environment—individualized coaching,” said Zettler. “As more elite players come out of the West to reach the highest levels, I believe we will see more and more top athletes selecting hockey as their sport. I look forward to working with as many of them as I can to be part of this growth.”
In his time on the West Coast, Zettler has seen the hockey landscape grow in leaps and bounds, even after his playing days came to an end.
“I first came to California in 1991 to play with the Sharks, and we played at the Cow Palace and practiced at an undersized rink in Redwood City,” Zettler said. “Now I see Sharks memorabilia everywhere. I travel around the West with my son who plays. Every rink I go into is packed with young players that love the game, not to mention all the adults who are playing. The live action of hockey is hard to beat along with the quality of people in our game. Hockey players have always been generous, relatable to the fans and giving of their time. That has helped grow the game. It’s a game that you can play and enjoy for a lifetime. I still love to play, but no contact anymore.
“Those young players are getting opportunities to play at higher levels and that is where we come in. We can help them succeed.”
Over the years, many hockey players, once they leave the NHL, make it a priority to give back, much like Zettler is doing. He says it is important to give back to the game that gave him a livelihood.
“The game has been very good to me and my family,” said Zettler. “ I love watching the game, I love being on the ice, teaching and sharing my knowledge. Talking and coaching hockey gives me energy, especially getting on the ice. It is important to share that passion and let people know how great our game really is.”
For more information, contact Zettler through OatesSportsGroup.com.
— Matt Mackinder
(Oct. 14, 2020)