Saturday, February 03, 2007

Killer clicks 2,000 games on the coaching odometer

The Ottawa 67’s honoured their long time coach and GM Brian Kilrea before the game Friday night and wrapped it up pretty nicely for him as welll. The junior hockey club in the nation’s capital, celebrated Friday night as the long time head coach of one of Canada’s best junior franchises took part in his 2000th coaching appearance.

Kilrea who has guided the 67’s through the years since 1974-75 (except for a brier visit to Long Island as an assistant) was feted by a sold out Civic Centre crowd and a host of celebrities and former players.

Ron McLean and long time friend Don Cherry were part of the official ceremonies and some sixty former players of Kilrea’s took to the ice to salute a hockey giant who has sent many players on to NHL success and many, many more on to individual success outside of hockey.

Kilrea was enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2003 and is the most successful hockey coach in Junior hockey. His record was inched up by one more win on Friday night as his 67’s recovered from a third period slip to win over St. Mikes Majors by a score of 4-3 in overtime.

Kilrea now stands with a career record of 1,116 wins and 705 losses with 153 ties. 18 games have resulted in overtime defeats and his team has registered eight more losses in shootouts.

Ottawa is a territory rich in hockey tradition from the early days of the Silver Seven, through the original Senators of the twenties, and on to the Hull-Ottawa Canadians of the sixties. Junior Hockey arrived in time for 1967-68 season and became one of the most passionate experiences for the city, spawning franchises in Hull and the outlying communities. With the return of the NHL and the Senators, it could safely be argued that Ottawa is Canada’s Hockey country.

Many players and coaches have been associated with hockey in the capital, but none will ever have the aura that Kilrea has, his teams are known not only for the hockey skills but for the deportment of their players. He runs a class organization, befitting the man himself. In a time when self satisfaction can be the rule of the day, Kilrea teaches team work and social responsibility and has produced some pretty good players for the NHL over the years.

Players that leave the Ottawa program after their junior years are much better off for their time spent on the bus with Kilrea. He has become an Ottawa icon, Friday night the city gave back just a portion of what they could, it probably isn’t near enough, but then again, he’s only coached for 2,000 games maybe the big celebration comes many years down the road.

It is a good thing to see Ottawa recognize Kilrea’s achievements, a long deserved honour for one of the city's most cherished citizens. He’s done so much for hockey in the community, the city could find no better ambassador for all that hockey means to the region.

No comments: