This is the original Reggie Dunlop. His name is John Brophy, and he’s a legend in hockey lore the way Margaret Trudeau is a legend in rock and roll history: something obviously happened and since then the stories keep getting better. It’s impossible these many years later to figure out fact from fiction, and we’re left to chuckle and wink.
The NHL is a pretty old damn league for us to have so little on record in terms of how coaches handle a multitude of problems on a daily and yearly basis. Do they roll 3 lines or 4? Do they prefer a veteran bench (4line, 3rd pairing) and why do some have powerplays that resemble the 80s Oilers and others look like they’re trying to piss off the people in the stands?
There’s a lot we don’t know about coaches, and it isn’t getting any better. Here’s a rundown of ALL of the coaches in the NHL and WHA from the summer of 1978 and what one publication said about them:
- Scotty Bowman, Montreal: He is a taskmaster who demands perfection. Now 45, he once said he didn’t expect to coach past 50. Bought 240 acres of land near a small lake and he intends to be a farmer.
- Bobby Kromm, Detroit: He was inherited by GM Ted Lindsay, as he was signed on by Lindsay’s predecessor Alex Delvecchio when his Winnipeg (WHA) contract expired.
- Johnny Wilson, Pittsburgh: Strong and inspirational disciplinarian. He earned plaudits as coach of Canada’s entry at last year’s World Championships. He made an immediate impression on the Pens last year by putting them through the most physical training camp of their history.
- Bob Berry, Los Angeles: Jack Kent Cooke said “Berry was my first choice.” His entire coaching experience consists of 20 games in the minors (Springfield). Believes Fred Shero is that last real coaching innovator.
- Tom McVie, Washington: McVie isn’t glued to old ways. At trainig camp he had a machine that shot tennis balls at his goaltenders at 85MPH every three seconds.
- Don Cherry, Boston: A master manipulator of his players and the press. He knows what he wants and doesn’t mess around. He doesn’t want stars on his team, prefering what he calls the “working class.”
- Roger Neilson, Toronto: His approach is as unorthodox as the manner in which he accepted the Toronto job. He gave his okay on the telephone from Johannnesburg, South Africa, where he was visiting a friend. He relies heavily on videotape to review games. He is defensive minded.
- Marcel Pronovost, Buffalo: A tough disciplinarian from the old school. Carries a briefcase filled with charts, notes and statistics. Some of his current players call him a good teacher.
- Harry Howell, Minnesota: Works on an even keel. Was not a crunching type defender, got the job done with an acute sense of positioning which he will urge on his young North Stars.
- Al Arbour, NYI: Employs defensive system that puts a premium on blocked shots. Gives written tests to his players on strategy.
- Bob McCammon, Philadelphia: Will have to work hard to get the confidence of Flyers players after their roller coaster ride with Fred Shero.
- Fred Shero, NYR: Inventive, secretive, off-beat. Likes to wear rumpled raincoat and tinted glasses which make him look like an undercover agent. A try anything strategist. Players complain they do not understand him.
- Fred Creighton, Atlanta: Fiesty, ornery guy who doesn’t tolerate silly mistakes. Can be heard screaming at team after losses. Likes a physical style with emphasis on positioning. Willing to give rookies a chance.
- Bob Pulford, Chicago: Also GM. Demanding and tireless. Runs grueling practices and has cerebral approach to the game. Admirer of football coach George Allen, he stresses defense.
- Pat Kelly, Colorado: Salty, tough guy who played for Eddie Shore.
- Harry Neale, Vancouver: Jogging devotee runs 5 miles a day. Coached Ohio State 66-70.
- Barcley Plager, St. Louis: Credited with developing young players Bob Hess, Bernie Federko and Brian Sutter.
- Jacques Demers, Quebec (WHA): Likes his teams to play disciplined, defensive hockey. Brutally honest.
- Larry Hillman, Winnipeg (WHA): A player’s coach if there ever was one. Strictly his own man in the way he does things. Low profile coach who consults his captain before making any big decisions. Admirer of Punch Imlach.
- Bill Dineen, New England (WHA): Personable coach, very good with young players.
- Glen Sather, Edmonton (WHA): Bright and dynamic, he’s livened up the Edmonton scene. Nosy behind the bench. Studied child psychology. Saved the lives of two Edmonton teenagers last winter when their car went off a road, rolled down an embankment and caught fire. Disciple of Sam Pollock.
- Pat Stapleton, Indianapolis (WHA): Has six kids.
- John Brophy, Birmingham (WHA): Loathes would be scoring champions who refuse to check. A big part of young Rod Langway’s quick progress. Preaches disciplined, defensive hockey.
The 24th team, Cincinnati Stingers (WHA) did not list a coach. There’s some funny stuff in there, some interesting insights and maybe a few notes that will interest you.
My question to you is, 29 years later how much more do we know about NHL coaches and what they do to help their teams win? Aren’t there a group of questions we can ask about them (starting this winter) in order to improve our knowledge of them? Is anyone else interested in this stuff? Gabriel Desjardins’ tremendous website has a ton of information available that addresses many things coaches do differently from other coaches, and it can be measured against the rest of the league.
I think it’s time we got to work on it.