Thursday, May 17, 2007

Todd McLellan wants to drink out of Lord Stanley

I will admit I am not a fan of the Detroit Red Wings but one of the coaching staff behind the Red Wings bench I am cheering for in this seasons NHL playoffs.
Todd McLellan, an assistant coach with the Wings, was the first junior coach I had the pleasure of knowing when I was cutting my teeth with the Swift Current Broncos in the fall of 1995.
I remember the press conference the Broncos held that day to announce the teams new head coach and all I can remembered was the fact McLellan was just slightly older than me.
"How can a guy that is 28 coach a junior team", I exclaimed. Todd McLellan has no clue in what he's getting himself into. The Broncos must be pretty desperate to hire this guy considering his lack of coaching experience.
Those were just some of the thoughts I had when the Saskatoon resident addressed the media
that day at Houston's Pizza...all three of us.
Boy was I wrong.
Todd McLellan made an immediate impression on all of us when he quicky bought a house in 'Swifty' and invited us media hounds over to his place for dinner. McLellan didn't see us as enemies, but as a group of individuals working together to improve the communication between the Broncos organization and it's fans.
Todd was always about communication. I often had great talks with him as we were cruised down Highway One on one of those long bus trips to Moose Jaw. (An hour and a half bus ride - wow! Those were the days.)

My general perception of McLellan?
He was a smart man who often talked about everything but hockey. McLellan loved to chat about investing and building a strong portfolio. I often thought that if coaching didn't
work out he should look at becoming a financial advisor.
He'd spend hours on the bus playing the thinking man's game - chess - and was more
of a tactician than a motivator during his stint with the Broncos.
Todd was always focused, never stayed out late on the road and was usually in bed by 11 and up by 7.
I remember the summer he left the Broncos. After another tough season where he packed on significant weight, he went into a workout regime like I had never seen before. Up until that point Todd and working out were never found in the same sentence, yet his mindset had all of a sudden changed dramatically.
My guess is McLellan wanted to get into peak physical condition as he was about to candidate for a pro job that summer at the NHL draft in Calgary.
When I saw him at the Saddledome he was as focused as ever, setting off a red flag that something was up. A few weeks later he would get the head coaching job in Cleveland of the now defunct International Hockey League and the rest was history.

Since he left for the pro's I haven't spoken to him since. So as I watch the Detroit Red Wings battle with Anaheim for a birth in this years Stanley Cup I can't help but watch closely when the TV camera's take a shot at the Wings bench and show McLellan talking strategy with Detroit head coach Mike Babcock.
This young punk who was named the Broncos head skipper at the tender age of 28 back in 1994 is now within a couple of wins of earning a Stanley Cup ring.

This article appeared in Wednesday's Windsor Star newspaper:

Detroit Red Wings assistant coach Todd McLellan’s name is being quietly mentioned as
someone who has a future in the National Hockey League as a head coach and Detroit coach Mike Babcock couldn’t agree more. “He’s a good man who does things the right way,” Babcock said. “He’s a professional and a good communicator. When I was hired here, I wanted someone on my staff who’d been a head coach. I didn’t want there to be consensus in every decision. I wanted there to be debate.” Prior to coming to Detroit, McLellan was head coach of Houston of the American Hockey League, the top farm club of the Minnesota Wild. “I’m a big fan of (Minnesota coach) Jacques Lemaire. “Todd’s been in his organization and it was a good chance to add someone of that calibre.”

If you are heading off to Vancouver to watch the Memorial Cup, don't be fooled by the warm weather outside.
The conditions inside Pacific Coliseum will give you goose bumps. The air conditioning in the arena will be working overtime at the tournament to keep the ice conditions ideal while trying to avoid the fog like experienced at the Medicine Hat Arena for game 7 of the WHL final.
Trust me the air conditioning at the old Coliseum works great. It was like a meat locker in there when the Rockets met the Giants in a first round playoff series 3 years ago.
Even with a crowd of 14 thousand in the arena for a playoff game it was more than a little nippy in there. That said, it won't stop some Vancouver puck bunnies from showing up half naked at the Coliseum.
But hey if the hockey is bad, at least the talent in the stands won't be!

Could Regina Pats bench boss Curtis Hunt be the next head coach of the Canadian World Junior team?
Hunt has confirmed he will be in Vancouver next week at the Memorial Cup to meet with Hockey Canada officials about a position on the coaching staff.
Hunt was an assistant to Craig Hartsburg at the 2007 tournament and Hartsburg has yet to announce his intentions if he will return to the program next season.
The other top candidate is Clemont Jodin, who was an assistant for the past two years under Hartsburg and Brent Sutter.
Would Rockets coach Jeff Truitt be interested in throwing his name into the ring for a spot on the Team Canada coaching staff.
I'll answer that question on this very blog later today.

What is the protocol for shaving off a playoff beard?
With hockey players growing beards during their respective league playoffs, do you shave them off or do you keep them around if you are one of the four teams competing at the Memorial Cup?
I noticed in one interview Wednesday, Giants forward Milan Lucic sporting a clean shave while veteran d-man Brett Festerling looked like he was staying status quo.
For the 16 year-old rookies on any of the four junior team competing, the hope is the beards will be shaved off for the Memorial Cup. They've likely been humiliated enough during the playoffs with the inability to grown facial hair while the veterans have done their best in looking like Grizzly Adams.

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