When Anaheim Ducks head coach Dallas Eakins was looking to add to his staff over the off-season, one of his main requirements was that the new hire have NHL head coaching experience.

Geoff Ward, who was let go by the Calgary Flames partway through last season after taking over following Bill Peters’ resignation in Nov. 2019, immediately came to mind.

Eakins, now in his third season as head coach and seventh with the Ducks organization, reached out to a few people in the hockey world to do a background check. One of the people Eakins called was Flames general manager Brad Treliving. Nashville Predators head coach John Hynes and former Montreal Canadiens bench boss Claude Julien also vouched for Ward.

The decision by Eakins to bring Ward aboard as an assistant has worked out well for the Ducks, who won 3-2 in overtime against the Calgary Flames on Monday thanks to a goal by blueliner Jamie Drysdale

“Just a 12 out of 10 hire,” Eakins said before the game. “When you get into an interview process, I take more of what other people say about the person then what they’re saying to me…Wardo brings a lot. Not just power play. He’s been a head coach. He’s been in the game forever. He’s been just an amazing addition.”

For his part, Ward doesn’t have ill will toward the organization that let him go from his first NHL head coaching opportunity. Ward finished with a 35-26-5 record and helped steer the team through the tumultuous period following Peters’ resignation, which came after allegations Peters had used racist language while with the Chicago Blackhawks organization a decade earlier.

“There’s really no hard feelings,” Ward said. “It’s the business of the game. As much as it’s a great game, sometimes it can be a crappy business. But that’s the reality of it. You sort of roll with the punches and get on. But everyone understands that, so it doesn’t hamper what you do personally or what your personal relationships are like…all the people here that I worked with in Calgary are tremendous — the coaches, the support staff, management, everybody is great.”

Ward played the role of doting dad after he was let go in early March, shuttling his daughter, Hannah, around to her field hockey games.

“I just watched the games and talked to her about something not related to hockey,” he said. “It was great to spend that time with her. Even on the road, the father-daughter time, and with my wife too.”

In an ironic twist of fate, Ward filled a void left by Darryl Sutter, who was with the Ducks as a consultant, after the latter replaced the former midway through last season. Beyond being a sounding board, Sutter was a mentor to Eakins.

“I can’t say enough about how that man has treated me,” Eakins said. “I think the biggest misconception about Darryl is this big, harsh, Sutter vibe. He is a hard man, but that guy is one of the most caring, loving coaches to his players…it’s always interesting, the narrative that gets out there. I see it. He looks like he’s pissed off every day, but he’s really not. That’s just the way he carries himself.”

Ward, who won a Stanley Cup as an associate coach with the Boston Bruins in 2011, hasn’t thought much about if he wants to join the same ranks as Sutter and be a head coach in the league again.

“I think the most important team, obviously, is the one that you’re with, so I’m going to dive into this opportunity here in Anaheim with the guys that I’m with now and enjoy that time,” he said. “I’ve always felt like if you do your due diligence and you do the best that you can with the team that you’re with, sometimes that helps create another opportunity, whether that be as a head coach or an assistant coach somewhere else.”

Despite his first stint as an NHL head coach ending abruptly, Ward enjoyed being back in Calgary this week.

“I have nothing but fond memories,” he said. “It’s good to come back and see some people and walk around the city again.”