Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Ken Hitchcock's battle

Brian at Hockeybird was understandably upset with Philadelphia Flyers head coach Ken Hitchcock's conduct during a recent game against his New York Rangers, but I think the fowl goes too far:
I don't want to get too personal and judgmental here, but Ken Hitchcock is a big fat guy. Just enormous. Corpulent. How fat is he? Every time someone walks around him, they get one year older. He's huge. Fat and flabby. Just a big bowl of chub.
That's just not fair. And I'll tell you why.

An Edmonton native, Hitchcock was in his early 30s when the Oilers won their first Stanley Cup. Then a man of modest means, Hitchcock sold hockey equipment and coached a Sherwood Park, Alta., minor hockey team.

As a kids team's coach, no one was better than Hitch. Over a decade, his teams put up a 575-69 record and, in 1984, he was named the Alberta minor hockey coach of the year. That's when a new team in Canadian junior hockey, the Kamloops Blazers, came calling.

Hitchcock coached the Blazers to a 52-17-2 record in his first season, and over the next six seasons, he became a hockey legend in the hockey-mad, blue-collar city. Kamloops won 291 times and lost just 125 games.

At the time, Hitchcock weighed nearly 500 pounds.

Now, the people of Kamloops knew a brilliant hockey mind when they saw it, but they also knew it was unlikely an NHL team would want such an 'enormous' man behind their bench. And Hitch knew it, too.

In 1989 at age 38, Hitchcock shed nearly 200 pounds through an intense exercise program and controlled diet. The then-struggling Philadelphia Flyers hired him as an assistant coach for the 1990-91 season.

When Hitchcock won the Stanley Cup in 1999 with the Dallas Stars, nine years after leaving the Blazers organization, people in Kamloops were overjoyed that he had done it. The city knew, more than anyone, the ridicule he had gone through in those difficult years behind the bench in the old barn that was the Memorial Arena. The city also knew it owed Hitch for the foundation he built, the work he did in putting a hockey dynasty in the Interior of British Columbia.

They also knew Hitchcock as a wonderful human being.

At the moment, he weighs close to 220 pounds and is one of the most decorated coaches in the NHL. He's overcome more than most NHL fans know, and for that, the last thing he deserves is more cheap shots.

UPDATE Mike at Flyers Fan Central adds more here.


At 3:50 a.m., March 07, 2006, Blogger ScottyWazz said...

For some reason, this makes me think of middle school and the "put-downs" some kids would use on the obviously rotund kids in the class. Plus, how out of comments do you have to be to stumble through something like that. I love reading Bird and all, but that was pretty unneeded.

At 10:11 a.m., March 07, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Many thanks for the information and insight. The meaningful contribution Mr. Hitchcock has made to improve the lives of people in hockey is a testament to the strength of his character. And the disrespectful ways he has been treated are sad reminders of how uncaring, cruel, thoughtless and destructive people in our communities can be. I love to follow hockey and from what I have read that was said by Ken Hitchcock he is not only consitently supportive and respectful of his players but gets a real charge out of seeing them develop and perform well. This distinguishes him as a hockey coach and is no doubt a key contributor to the success he has achieved. With Ken's Hitchock's intelligence, integrity and passion, I think it would be foolish for Flyers fans to give up the hope of a Stanley Cup Parade down Broad Street this year. This however will be hard to realize without support from the fans. Constructive criticism is helpful, abuse and disrespect foster anger and fear. Perhaps the kind of support Flyers fans are known for has something to do with their teams not winning the Cup for so many years.

At 12:22 p.m., March 07, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm not sure how old Hockeybird is, but the lack of maturity in that post was glaring. Here's hoping that he will eventually come to be embarrassed by an outburst that juvenile - that would be a sign he is growing up a bit.

At 7:02 p.m., March 07, 2006, Anonymous Mike said...

Nice write up. I agree with you 100%.
So much so, I had to put my two cents in.

At 9:33 p.m., March 07, 2006, Blogger Chris said...

I'm with you too James...thanks for the htoughtful rebuke. It brings some civility to things. There's wit and there's just plain rudeness, and Hockeybird crossed the line.


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