Sunday, March 15, 2009

Thank You and Goodbye Killer!

March 15th, 2009 marked the last game that 67’s Coach Brian Kilrea would work a regular season game behind the bench. Now he still has a playoff run ahead as they will play Niagara in the first round and will still stay on as GM of the team. Kilrea has been with the 67s as coach since Sept. 27, 1974 minus 2 seasons as an assistant with the New York Islanders, has the most wins by a coach and is a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame. All you ever hear about him is that the players that he has come in as boys and leave as respectful men. It is kind of funny when, by all accounts, that a Kilrea story can’t be told because of the expletives yet he manages young men and moulds them into not only good hockey players but good members of society.

I was lucky enough to be there in person 4rows from the glass right behind the net to take in this special event as “Killer” was saluted with an almost 40-minute pre-game ceremony.There was a few video messages played before he addressed the crowd. Former Springfield Indians teammate and friend Don Cherry and TV sidekick Ron MacLean said some nice words, as well as from former 67's goaltender-turned-broadcaster Darren Pang and Phoenix Coyotes coach Wayne Gretzky sent on their regards as well. There was a nice video tribute that highlighted his career showing him scoring the first goal in LA Kings history to his many triumphs behind the bench, including him lifting the Memorial Cup. Kilrea now has 1,193 wins in 2,157 games behind the bench. Both numbers are Canadian junior records. The CHL's coach of the year award is also named after Kilrea. He then addressed the crowd with a very moving speech, which he almost got through until the end when he got a little choked up when talking about the most recent honor bestowed upon him...a donation to CHEO by the team and the OHL to name an educational teaching room after him. It is only fitting that his name be linked with developing youth. A banner to commemorate Kilrea's career was also raised to the rafters.

In a fitting tribute the 67s managed a 5-3 victory over the Kingston Frontenacs in Killers last game. Logan Couture scored a hat trick on some pretty goals to lead the team to victory. In 2 very classy moves at the end of the game the team held their sticks like an arch as Killer walked under and off the ice and then there was the announcement that there were 4 stars, 1 Frontenac, Juilan Demers who was the 3rd star, Couture was 2nd and of course then Brian Kilrea was the games first star.
As a fan of junior hockey it was really great to be in attendance for this and just be apart of the 10,000+ standing room only crowd as Ottawa said goodbye to a legend. It will be interesting next year for Killer not to be behind the bench but hopefully incoming coach Chris Byrne can continue in the success that the team has come to enjoy. It will be tough for sure as you can’t fill the shoes of a legend. I am sure that he will do a great job and become a good coach in his own right after his success in Nepean as coach of the JR A. Raiders.


Eazy said...

Love the former GM and head coach Chris Byrne! He is a gentleman and scholar.

Tom said...

I too was at the game. My wife was bored at the opening ceremonies, but I thought it was pretty cool. Good game too. I especially like the goal scored as soon as the fight broke out.