|A Killer goodbye (photo by: TotalPhoto.ca)|
In October 1967, Brian Kilrea scored the first goal in Los Angeles Kings history.
He was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2003.
Make no mistake about it though, it had nothing to do with his time in the NHL, where he played a grand total of 26 games and scored three goals.
Killer, as he’s affectionately known in hockey circles, has largely spent the past 35-plus years either behind the bench or in the front office of the Ottawa 67’s, one of the OHL’s most successful teams.
He began his coaching career in 1974-75 and three years later his roster included a short whippersnapper from Coniston, Ontario …and knowing Foxy now, he probably had the best hair on the team, even back then.
Jim Fox honed his craft under the tutelage of Kilrea for three seasons, before being selected in the first round by the Kings in the 1980 NHL Draft.
When it was announced on Wednesday that Kilrea was stepping down from his day to day activities with the 67’s, Fox was eager to speak out on the man who guided him early in his career.
“Playing for Brain, he was a teacher and a motivator, but he also understood how to make it enjoyable for everyone who played for him,” said Fox. “I think the thing that separates him from others is that he was able to combine all of the serious aspects of hockey with the fun that everyone should have.”
Fox also has a clear understanding of how Kilrea helped develop his play on the ice – “He nurtured the creativity I had in my game. He allowed you to step outside the box every once and a while and try some things offensively that maybe other coaches would not have allowed to happen. By doing that, he allowed me to build confidence in myself and understand that I could be successful with the puck and make plays with it.”
As for Kilrea’s place in history, “Brain’s record speaks for itself, it’s unquestioned,” proclaimed Fox. “His long term commitment to the game, and more specifically to the Ottawa 67’s, may be the biggest reason he is in the Hall of Fame.”
Some 30 years later, the Kings drafted another Kilrea coached player, Tyler Toffoli.
Although Toffoli only had him as a coach for his first season in Ottawa (2008-09), Kilrea has continued to play an integral role in Toffoli’s development while serving as the 67’s general manager.
“Even the last two seasons, when he wasn’t behind the bench, he definitely helped me out,” explained Toffoli. “He would come in when I was having a few tough games and he would just tell me what to do, the little things. You listen to him because you know he’s such a great role model in the world of hockey. Every time I listened to him, things started to turn around. I just tried to take everything that he told me in and use it somehow.”
It’s only a small part of the greatness that is Brain Kilrea, as his links to the Kings’ organization remain strong some 44 years after he netted that first goal.
At the beginning of last season, Kilrea stopped by MayorsManor to talk about that moment back in ’67, discusses key achievements in his career, plus share some thoughts on Toffoli and Fox. Links to those articles can be found below.
Interview with Brain Kilrea – talking first goal, Fox, Rychel, Toffoli, etc.
OHL Season Preview with Brian Kilrea – talking Memorial Cup, draft manipulation and more