Yesterday’s look at the Windsor Spitfires featured a glimpse into the man running the reigning and defending champion (that’s a Bruce Buffer-ism for all you MMA fans), Warren Rychel.
Later tonight, the OHL season gets underway for two franchises at different points in their development. Neither the Ottawa 67s, nor the Soo Greyhounds enter action ranked in the top-10. However, both are looking to make some noise as the season wears on. Tonight, they begin by playing each other.
Each team is led by a GM with strong ties to the Kings organization too. Dave Torrie has had numerous recent draft picks in the Soo – guys like Wayne Simmonds, Jordan Nolan and Andrew Campbell. Over in Ottawa, Brian Kilrea’s legendary career behind the bench saw him coach former Kings Jim Fox and Rychel, along with this year’s second round selection, Tyler Toffoli.
Kilrea also will forever be linked to Los Angeles because of his unique accomplishment on October 14, 1967…when he became the first player in Kings history to score a goal for the franchise.
A few years ago he hung up his coaching whistle – after winning over 1,100 games and earning a place in the Hockey Hall of Fame – for a stint as the GM of the 67s.
Prior to their game tonight with the Soo, we caught up with the junior hockey legend to talk about his time in the OHL.
In another MayorsManor exclusive interview, we talk with Brian Kilrea…
MM: You reached some pretty incredible milestones as a coach. Looking back, how did you balance the excitement of achieving personal accomplishments, like say your 1000th game, versus the message you were trying to convey to your players at the time about it being a team game?
BK: You can’t reach a milestone like that without the players. I’ll never forget how excited the players actually were when we won that game. They were jumping all around on the ice and stuff. Then over the next few days, a lot of my former players sent messages and called to congratulate me. It meant a lot to hear from so many different people. So, when you reach a milestone like that, you do take a moment and celebrate it. You remember it forever.
After winning the Memorial Cup in 1984 you left Ottawa to become an assistant in NHL. Had you accomplished your goals and now wanted a bigger challenge or was it just a timing thing?
Things like that are always a timing thing. However, it’s partly ego as well. I thought that I achieved a major accomplishment and I wanted to take on bigger challenges. It was a great thing though. I don’t regret it at all. I went to the National Hockey League and worked with great people and met some of the biggest stars in the game. Being around Al Arbour and all those guys that went to the Hall of Fame, like Brian Trottier, it helped shape who I became. It’s part of what makes me who I am.
You eventually ended up back in Ottawa and won a second Memorial Cup in ’99. This was after leaving, returning, retiring and then coming back again. Did everything that happened between ’84-99 make the second one any better?
They all mean something. The first one is certainly special. The second one was great too. I like ‘em all though. We went back to the Memorial Cup in ’01 and ’05 also. We didn’t win, but I remember those years as much as the first two. Each time you go back to the Memorial Cup it’s unique and different in it’s own sort of way.
Draft manipulation is always one of my favorite topics, partly because it’s something so unique to junior hockey. In your opinion, with the recent rule changes, is it still a big problem and if so, how can it be fixed?
Absolutely it’s a big problem. It’s not right when teams that are drafting towards the bottom of the first round are getting better players than teams that have the first and second pick. Another GM in the league has said that having the first pick in the draft is a curse. I kinda agree with him.
As for how it can be fixed, I’ll say two things. One, we’ve tried to fix it with the compensatory picks (where a team receives extra draft picks if they can’t sign a player they draft). That seems to be working a little.
Second, there’s a quote from Bum Phillips (famous football coach in Texas) I like. He once said, “My daddy told me that if you don’t have a solution to a problem, then you shouldn’t complain about it.” Right now, I don’t have a better solution, so I try not to complain too much about it.
The CHL vs. NCAA is always a hot topic as well. Some American born players probably know more about NCAA colleges than they do about how Canadian junior hockey works. What are some of the other challenges when trying to recruit American players vs. Canadian kids?
We’ve probably stayed away from kids in the Detroit or Southern Michigan area. If the families want to watch them, it’s hard to get to Ottawa. We’re out of the way compared to some other markets. We’ve found greater success in taking a kid from New York or Boston or other markets like that, where travel might not be an issue.
You guys won your division last year, but lost in the second round of the playoffs to Mississauga – who are hosting the Memorial Cup this season. What will it take for the 67s to represent the OHL there this year?
We’ve got a good team. I know we’ve got some real good forwards. We have great goaltending. I don’t know, I think we’re a little bit light on the blue line. We’re going to have to wait and see how the young kids come along. For us to challenge for first place, we may have to add, probably a defenseman. Just to give us that chance. I know we’re pretty solid in the other areas.
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Game one of the journey begins tonight.
Fortunately for the 67s, they’ll get a boost offensively - as the Kings have released Toffoli from training camp. He’s on his way back to Canada and is planning on being in the starting line-up when they take on the Greyhounds this evening.
Interview with Brian Kilrea – talking first goal in Kings history and comments on Kings players
Interview with Warren Rychel – talking winning back-to-back championships, plus NHL prospects
Interview with Dave Torrie - candid comments on issues in the OHL, from a well respected GM
Torrie on LA Kings Players – thoughts on Wayne Simmonds, Kyle Clifford, Kevin Westgarth, etc.