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 Peter Worrell punched his way into professional hockey. Now he’s looking to coach his way back to the pros.

Worrell, who accumulated more than 1,500 penalty minutes as a left wing and enforcer for the Florida Panthers and Colorado Avalanche from 1997-98 to 2003-04, was named assistant coach of the Fayetteville Marksmen of the single-A Southern Professional Hockey League last week.

Former Florida Panthers forward Peter Worrell in 2002.

A Panthers 1995 seventh-round draft pick, Worrell quickly turned to coaching after playing his last professional game with the ECHL’s Charlotte Checkers in 2005-06.

He returned to Florida the following season to become head coach of North Broward Preparatory School. He assumed additional responsibility in 2010-11 when he became bench boss of Florida Atlantic University’s American Collegiate Hockey Association’s Division III team.

“When I ended my seasons last year, I made the decision I wanted to explore new challenges,” Worrell said. “I contacted a lot of teams, in many leagues. When I first contacted the Marksmen and I talked to (Head Coach Jesse) Kallechy, it just felt right. It was a big decision for me, as I was comfortable in my previous positions, but everyone in Fayetteville has been so welcoming and first class, I know I couldn’t have found a better position.”

And Kallechy believes that he couldn’t have found a better bench sidekick for the Fayetteville, North Carolina, team than Worrell.

“He blew me away in the interview process,” Kallechy said. “He was an excellent communicator, our views on player personnel aligned, and he is eager to learn and bring fresh viewpoints to the team.”

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Worrell will become the SPHL’s second black coach when the puck drops for the 2018-19 season. In May, the Macon Mayhem tapped Leo Thomas as its head coach, making him the only black professional hockey head coach in North America.

While the SPHL’s minority coaching numbers grow, the ranks of coaches of color in the National Hockey League declined following 2017-18 season.

The Calgary Flames let go veteran Assistant Coach Paul Jerrard, who was the league’s only minority coach to work behind the bench during games.

He wasn’t unemployed very long. The University of Nebraska Omaha Mavericks hired Jerrard in May to be an assistant coach for the National Collegiate Hockey Conference team.

“He has a very good track record of developing players,” UNO Head Coach Mike Gabinet said. “I knew, first off, how good of a person he was having played for him. He was my (defense) coach. And when you’re a player, people always ask you afterward who’s influenced you as a coach.”

Jerrard, who played hockey for Lake Superior State University from 1983-84 to 1986-87, said he’s stoked about returning to the college game. He tallied 40 goals and 73 assists in 156 games as a defenseman for the Lakers.

“I’ve always loved college hockey, and I’m looking forward to working with and developing our players, not just in their careers but academically as well to help them prepare for success in the future,” he said.

The NHL’s remaining coaches of color are goalie coaches Sudarshan Maharaj of the Anaheim Ducks, Frantz Jean, of the Tampa Bay Lightning and Fred Brathwaite of the New York Islanders.

Scott Gomez is on the Isles’ coaching staff and Nigel Kirwan serves as a video coach for the Lightning.

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