Assistant coach Chris Zarb looks on during UM-Dearborn's November loss to Robert Morris. Zarb led the Wolverines as a substitute head coach during a weekend series vs. Buffalo on Jan. 16-17. (Ricky Lindsay/MJ)
Assistant coach Chris Zarb looks on during UM-Dearborn's November loss to Robert Morris. Zarb led the Wolverines as a substitute head coach during a weekend series vs. Buffalo on Jan. 16-17. (Ricky Lindsay/MJ)
Assistant coach Chris Zarb looks on during UM-Dearborn’s November loss to Robert Morris. Zarb led the Wolverines as a substitute head coach during a weekend series vs. Buffalo on Jan. 16-17. (Ricky Lindsay/MJ)

By ERICK LEHMAN, Staff Reporter

University of Michigan-Dearborn hockey assistant coach Chris Zarb was thrown into the spotlight this past weekend as he made his collegiate head coaching debut for the Wolverines.

Head coach Chris Haltinner was out of town for the weekend, so he turned to his first-year assistant Zarb to take the reins in his absence.

“This is my first year coaching anywhere, I just stopped playing pro, it was pretty exciting,” Zarb said.

The opportunity offered Zarb, a professional defensemen during his playing days, a fresh glance as a coach.

“It’s different. I usually run the defensemen, I was running the forwards this weekend, it’s a little more chaotic,” Zarb said after Saturday night’s game. “I really enjoy coaching, I enjoy the hockey part of it, I enjoy the life of coaching as well.”

Zarb was drafted in the fifth round (#144 overall) by the Philadelphia Flyers in the 2004 NHL entry draft. He went on to play for Ferris State University from 2005-2008.

During the 2008-2009 season, Zarb played part for the Mississippi Sea Wolves of the ECHL and part of a season for the Philadelphia Phantoms of the AHL, the minor league affiliate for the Flyers at that time.

Some notable players on that Phantoms roster were the likes of Claude Giroux, James van Reimsdyk, Luca Sbisa, and Daniel Briere.

Zarb would go on to play another season in the ECHL and two more seasons in the EIHL, his last, the 2011-12 season, for the Dundee Stars.

That is when he went from Chris Zarb to Coach Zarb.

“I miss the locker room. I miss playing. I miss dressing up every night, for practice or games,” Zarb said. “I’ve only had to worry about myself. Now I not only have to worry about this team, I have another team as well. I’m the head coach for my Little Caesars team as well, my first year coaching.”

Sometimes going from player to coach so quickly can be a tough transition for some, but for Zarb, it hasn’t been tricky, it’s been a learning experience and a chance to grow as a person.

“It’s a good transition from player to coach. When you play the game for as long as I have at a high level, you want to stay in the game,” Zarb said. “It’s been a really nice growing up process for me. It’s different, and I understand now why my coaches used to get so mad at me.”

The Wolverines may need to cherish having Zarb on the staff while they have him. As a former professional, his knowledge of the game could quickly catapult his coaching career to new levels each and every year.

“I see the game a different way than a lot of people,” Zarb said. “We try to keep the game simple, and when we make a complex game simple, we score 10 goals.”