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Every year at the Memorial Cup, the Head Coach of each of the participating teams is put front-and-centre throughout the tournament....
Heading into this year's edition, I thought it would be a good time to look back at some of the memorable bench boss personalities from the past decade at junior hockey's marquee event.
2000: Bill Stewart, Barrie Colts
The name Bill Stewart brings with it many thoughts among OHL fans. During his two seasons coaching in the league he won Ontario Hockey League Championships, but crossed many people along the way. From pulling his team off the ice without shaking hands to a U.S. immigration incident, controversy followed Stewart. Among the moments from the 2000 Memorial Cup in Halifax were pulling his team out of the opening banquet, going onto the ice after a mascot, and having the players adjust the benches so he could patrol the front of the bench ala former Soviet boss Viktor Tikhonov.
2001: Claude Bouchard, Val D'Or Foreurs
Val D'Or was a team that just looked like they were having fun throughout the Memorial Cup and Bouchard was their leader. This is a team who stretched in the shape of an "F" during warmup and jumped into the bench when they scored a goal. During press conferences, Bouchard answered questions with plenty of emotion and very emphatically. In his broken english, the term "my team" was used quite often. So many coaches resort to simple "hockey answers" but Bouchard was very detailed.
2001/2005: Brian Kilrea, Ottawa 67's
Killer was behind the bench for a pair of Memorial Cups that I have covered in-full. The 2001 tournament involved the "bingo" incident where fans of the hometown Regina Pats chanted "Bingo! Bingo!" in response to comments made by members of the 67's putting down the city of Regina. During the post-game press conference, Kilrea made it clear that his players were not meaning to slam the city, and clarified (in jest) that goaltender Seamus Kotyk actually enjoyed playing bingo on the team bus all the time. During the 2005 event, the 67's were heavy underdogs as the OHL finalist, but one of Kilrea's classic quips was during a post-game press conference beside Dale Hunter when he noted "No questions, great Dale...you and I can go get ourselves a Molson here at the...John....Labatt...Centre" making reference to the name of the London rink while Molson is a major sponsor of the event.
2006: Patrick Roy/Ted Nolan
The coaches of the Quebec Remparts and Moncton Wildcats had quite a rivalry going. The two teams hooked up in the QMJHL playoffs and then again in the Memorial Cup. Barbs went back and forth between the two throughout the tournament. Roy was asked his opinions on the four goaltenders involved in the tournament. His lack of faith in Wildcats goalie Josh Tordjman drew the ire of Nolan. It got to the point where Roy had to hold press conferences after every practice because of the amount of media that wanted to hear from the hall of fame goaltender.
2007/2009: Clement Jodoin, Lewiston/Rimouski
Jodoin may top the list of well-spoken coaches at recent Memorial Cups. His answers are well thought out, lacking cliches and very articulate. They may not be the most exciting answers and appear to lack emotion, but come across as someone who thinks the game through.
2008: Bill Peters, Spokane Chiefs
There is one moment in particular that clinched Bill Peters' spot on this list. At the beginning of the 2008 tournament in Kitchener, he was asked about the pressure on star forward Drayson Bowman.
"Pressure?" asked Peters rhetorically. "There's no pressure. They're young guys, there's no pressure. We're in the Memorial Cup championship, we're hockey players doing what we love to do with a group of people we love to be with, where's the pressure there? I don't get it.
"Just go out and have fun and play hard," said the coach. "If that's pressure then we're in trouble. Pressure is when you don't have the money to make the mortgage and things are goin' south that way."
To save you counting, he said "pressure" a total of six times in a short period of time. It brought up memories of the famous moments of football coach Jim Mora "playoffs" and basketball star Allen Iverson "practice".
Throughout the tournament Peters was very approachable and among those people who treated people he just met at the tournament as if he had known them for years.
2009: Coaching Staff, Windsor Spitfires
The Windsor gang is quite a group. Beyond their success with the Spitfires on the ice, they are also a good group to chat with away from a game situation. Boughner, Jones, Smith, Rychel and then-goalie coach Bill Dark had a pretty solid handle on the town of Rimouski. They could often be found relaxing after a game or on the evening of an off-day at the restaurant attached to their hotel. It was a good spot to swap stories and just chat about whatever might come up.
2009: Guy Boucher, Drummondville
Shortly after the Memorial Cup ended, Boucher moved on to the AHL Hamilton Bulldogs. During the tournament, Boucher would be quite candid, almost bordering on trying to get in the head of the other teams. The Voltigeurs were a hurting group, but rather than hiding it, he would make sure to let everyone know. He would hold court with the media on-site as long as they wanted. He was seen talking to french media throughout an entire practice, and then was more than willing to chat with the english media for just as long - if not longer. Boucher even approached the media at times to see if there was anything they needed. I think if we asked nicely enough he might have written stories for us.
We wait and see who will stand out at the 2010 edition of the Memorial Cup!
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