Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Former Blazers, Canucks coach dies

If you're from Kamloops, Bill LaForge is a name you'll know. Laforge was one of the earliest orchastrators of hockey success in Kamloops, as he coached the WHL club, then known as the Jr. Oilers, to its first Memorial Cup berth in only the team's third year in existence. In a city that size, something like that gets you remembered.

Unfortunately, LaForge passed away on Sunday at the relatively-young age of 53. Also the one-time coach of the Vancouver Canucks, he'll not soon be forgotten by B.C. hockey fans. (And, in another odd coincidence for myself, LaForge's last coaching duties were with the AJHL's Bonnyville Pontiacs, the team I followed as a reporter last summer).

Courtesy of the Canuck Library, here's a dubious recount of LaForge's tumultuous (and brief) tenure with Vancouver:
May 18, 1984: Sorry, wrong number
When 33 year old Bill LaForge was hired as coach of the Vancouver Canucks, he was younger than some of the players on the team. LaForge had an impressive resume, but had no experience with NHL players. Still he stated that the Canucks would win 50 games in 1984-85, because, after all, losing 30 games was quite a lot. By the time training camp ended, players were in near revolt to Bill LaForge's amateur antics. He survived 20 games as coach, posting a record of 4-14-2 before being fired. At that rate, it would have taken over three full seasons to register 50 wins.

While he was always controversial, he still stands as a hockey pioneer in my hometown. For that, I say, rest in peace Mr. LaForge.

On a somewhat related note, here's an archived NHL.com feature on Ken Hitchcock that mentions LaForge and his role in Hitchcock's rise to NHL fame.


At 7:26 p.m., June 21, 2005, Blogger Jes Gőlbez said...

...and a few hundred years in the future, his descendants will give birth to one of the great engineers Starfleet will ever have!


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