Many NHL coaches got their start as assistants in the minors, working for little money and for teams based in far away places such as Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, or Port Huron, Michigan. Many minor league teams are affiliated with an NHL team, and success at the minor level attracts attention and promotion through the minor system and, ultimately, could lead to placement on the coaching staff of an NHL team.
Successful NHL players, particularly those who demonstrate poise and leadership on the ice, are given the shortest track to an NHL coaching job. Some have been immediately hired as NHL coaches as soon as they announce their retirement, while others are afforded assistant positions to "learn the ropes" before being named head coach.
A college coach with a winning track record can also receive consideration to lead an NHL team. One of the most famous coaches, the late Herb Brooks, was head coach at the University of Minnesota and coached the 1980 "Miracle on Ice" U.S. Olympic hockey team that won the gold medal. His accomplishments earned him several NHL head coaching jobs in the 1980s.