September 28, 2008

Killer’s legacy goes beyond wins and losses

From the OHL site:
Created: Sep 28, 2008
By Aaron Bell

It’s easy to measure things in sports.

Wins, losses, goals, points. They show up on the scoresheet and are tracked for everyone to see.

But there are other results in the game that are even more gratifying for Brian Kilrea and those are the memories that he will cherish the most once he finishes his lengthy coaching career at the end of this season.

Kilrea’s accomplishments on the ice speak for themselves. He has three OHL championships, a pair of Memorial Cup championship rings, more wins than any other coach in CHL history and was named coach of the year twice. The CHL renamed its coach of the year award in honour of Kilrea.

But away from the ice, Kilrea gets constant reminders of why his career has been so satisfying.

It happens a lot when the 67’s are on the road. Soon after they arrive at the visiting rink, there is a knock on the door and Killer calls in with a familiar voice. Someone that played for him during the past three decades stopped by to say hello and catch up with his old mentor. Most of the time, they have long since given up dreams of playing the game professionally, but have found success in another field. Usually that came from the education package they received while playing for the 67’s.

“Everyone is proud of the players that get the opportunity to go on the National Hockey league but some of them choose the education route and they are successful in their life,” Kilrea said recently.

“I’m happy when I see some of these kids come back and visit us when we go around the province. Whether they are accountants, fire department, police department, lawyers, whatever, they take time to come back and say hello. I always bring them in to meet our players because I think it is always important to show that Major Junior hockey gives you the option of two doors. If you are gifted enough and lucky enough to go to hockey, that’s great but if not, you’ve utilized the schooling systems that we have to go to university and make yourself a successful citizen. When I see these kids come back and they are successful off the ice - I think that’s important.”

Kilrea was in his fifth season behind the 67’s bench when the Ontario Hockey League hired David Branch as its new commissioner in 1979. The pair have seen thousands of players come through the league since then and share a bond of helping grow the league to its current state.

Branch said that Kilrea’s accomplishments are unparalleled.

“In our league, coaching and the name Kilrea is synonymous,” Branch said. “What can you say about this gentleman? Inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame, more wins than any other CHL coach, more games coached that any other CHL coach, two Memorial Cups, three OHL championships, nine division titles, two time coach of the year and you can go on and on.

“But, those statistics really only tell part of the story because Brian and his legacy will live on in terms of the people that he’s touched along the way and the positive influence he’s meant to the game and his players and anyone that has come into contact with him.”

For Kilrea, it was out of respect to the players on his team and around the league that he decided to announce that this would be his final season behind the bench. He would have preferred to go out quietly and let everyone know at the end of the year but knew that probably wouldn’t be fair to those around him that would want to celebrate his career.

“I didn’t know whether I should just wait until the end of the year and just said ‘thanks, I’ve had a great time’ but then we thought maybe because we only go to certain places once maybe some of those fans would like to say good-bye, or whatever,” Kilrea said. “One of the reasons I mentioned it is that the players are our most important people in our league and they should know that Chris Byrne will be their next coach. This year they know that some of the decisions that we will make, Chris will be there in the future.”

Kilrea will remain with the 67’s as general manager and will continue to scout prospects for the team. He is always an ambassador for the league and said that he relishes that role.

“The message that I will always state is that I’m so proud of the league and the direction we’ve taken – mainly with our education program and the minor hockey development in our province that continue to give us these kids to work with that become stars,” Kilrea said. “When you take a look at John Tavares, who comes in and he’s going to be fighting for that number one spot next year. Everyone in our league is proud of that and I’m proud to coach in our league and see some of the greatest players come through it. I’ll enjoy it as a manager next year but this year we’ll try to see how successful we can be.”

Branch said that he league has benefitted greatly from the impact that Kilrea has had during the past three decades.

“The good news is that he’s remaining as general manager of the Ottawa 67’s,” Branch said. “His contributions to the game cannot be overstated. We’re very fortunate to have a legend within our midst.”

No comments: