Hockey’s Different Here (The Future Part 2)

This is Ray Kinasewich in the uniform of the Edmonton Flyers. In 1949 he was playing in the AJHL for the Edmonton Maple Leafs, before heading to Calgary to play for the Buffalos (spelling is correct, that was their name. Source SIHR) of the Western Canada Junior Hockey League.

He spent his final season of junior (1952) with the Edmonton Oil Kings and then graduated to the Edmonton Flyers (WHL) when turning pro. He would have played with Johnny Bucyk, Al Arbour, Lorne Davis, Bronco Horvath, Norm Ullman and Glenn Hall as a Flyer.

Kinasewich played pro in the WHL and AHL until the mid-60s, once spending an extended period with the legendary Guyle Fielder on a very productive line. At age 24 he scored 43 goals in the WHL and must have been at least considered a possibility for NHL time but it never came for him.

By the mid-60s his playing career was winding down and he caught on with the Edmonton Oil Kings again as coach. With Kinasewich behind the bench, the Oil Kings won the Memorial Cup in 1966. He then moved on to Houston (CPHL) and Salt Lake City (WHL) before being hired by Bill Hunter as the Edmonton Oilers (WHL) first head coach.

The early (WHA) Oilers were not blessed with great depth, and in fact Hunter fired Kinasewich after a 20-23-2 start to the 1972-73 season. Hunter would do the same thing to Brian Shaw and Clare Drake later on (fire them in the middle of a season) before Bep Guidolin and then Glen Sather settled the coaching situation and the Oilers would fold into the NHL (1979).

It might be an idea to list the Oilers NHL coaching history at this time:

  • 79-80 Glen Sather (28-39-13)
  • 80-81 Bryan Watson (4-9-5)
  • 80-89 Glen Sather (414-202-86)
  • 89-91 John Muckler (75-65-20)
  • 91-94 Ted Green (65-102-21)
  • 94-95 George Burnett (12-20-3)
  • 94-99 Ron Low (139-162-40)
  • 99-00 Kevin Lowe (32-34-16)
  • 00-09 Craig MacTavish (300-307-47)

OTL’s are counted in the L column above. Three coaches have taken the Oilers into the Stanley Cup Finals (Sather, Muckler, MacTavish) and all three would have to be considered quality NHL coaches. Watson and Green were respected assistants who were given the chance at the head job but didn’t succeed (Watson failed quickly, Green over a longer period) and George Burnett was the Tom Runnells of Oilers history. Ron Low was good enough to find NHL employment and Kevin Lowe could probably have had a career in coaching.

Craig MacTavish has been a good coach for the Edmonton Oilers. Some years were excellent, others good and this past season was a disappointment. It reminds me of the day I knew my wife had heard all my jokes and knew my delivery backward (which meant decades of working harder to make her laugh).

She picked me up in her 1986 Honda Prelude at CFRN (I was finishing a shift) and we were tooling down the road when I told her a joke Rod Phillips had told me that day:

  • Me: I heard a joke today.
  • She: Yeah?
  • Me: Two guys talking. First guy says “man, I cannot complete a sentence today.” Second guy: “Really, what do you mean?” First guy says “well, I’m sitting in my office on hold with Air Canada waiting for a live person to say hello. Muzak, muzak, muzak and then all of sudden ‘hi Air Canada can I help you?’ and she scared the daylights out of me. So instead of saying ‘I’d like two tickets to Pittsburgh’ I say ‘I’d like two pickets to Tittsburgh!” Second guy: “I hear you, brother. This morning I’m sitting with my wife and kids having breakfast and instead of saying ‘honey can you pass the sugar’ I say ‘you ruined my life you stupid bitch.’
  • She: Yeah. We need hamburger.

Right then I knew she’d seen my schtick enough to see it coming. So you either have to work harder to make her laugh, give up that part of your life, or find someone else.

That’s where the Edmonton Oilers are today.

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