Goodbye Hitch!

By Patrick Hoffman

When it comes to people retiring in the game of hockey, it's really only the players that get all the attention.

It's with good reason that when a player retires, especially the great ones, the spotlight is on them considering all the things they did throughout their career. Fans cheer, the player gets something nice from the organization, and that's that.

When it comes to coaches retiring, however, I believe that not enough attention is paid. It can even be said that some of the greatest coaches in the league retired with very little fanfare.

One coach who deserves positive attention for retiring is Ken Hitchcock. After a very up and down playoffless season in his return to the Dallas Stars, Hitch announced his retirement.

Mr. Hitchcock will go down as one of the greatest coaches in the league. As of this writing (April 13), Hitch is third on the all-time list with 823 victores, which puts him behind just Joel Quenneville (884) and Scotty Bowman (1244).

There were many things to like about Hitchcock. For starters, he was a winner.

Hitchcock joined the Stars in the mid 90's and turned them into one of the best teams in the league. He led them to a Western Conference Final in 1998, a Stanley Cup championship in 1999, and to the Final again in 2000 in a losing effort against the Devils.

Hitch then had some success with the Philadelphia Flyers. He got them to the Eastern Conference in Finals in 2004 as well as playoff appearances in 2003 and 2006.

He then went to the Columbus Blue Jackets and at that time at least, changed their culture. He got the team into the playoffs for the first time in franchise history in the 2008-09 season and showed that with the right coach, they could be a good team.  

His time in St. Louis was also highly successful. He helped guide the team to the Western Conference Final in 2016 before losing to the San Jose Sharks.

In terms of winning hockey games, Hitchcock was one of the best. The numbers he has as a head coach will certainly put him in the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Another thing to like about Hitch was his personality. He was direct, intelligent, humorous, and he absolutely loved to not only talk about the game, but about coaching in the sport.

Speaking of his personality, Hitch was someone who knew how to push the right buttons on his players to get them what he wanted to do. The teams he coached generally brought into his style and more often than not, the team won a lot of games because of that.

Lastly, he was just someone you always expected to be behind the bench. It is going to be very strange to watch the NHL next season and not see him behind the bench for one of the league's 31 clubs.

Overall, Hitch was a winner, an unbelievable coach, and someone who loved what he did for a living. Have a great retirement, Hitch!

Previously, Patrick has covered the NHL for Sportsnet.caKukla’s Korner, Spector’s Hockey, About.com, NHL Network Radio blog, TheHockeyNews.com, The Fourth Period, Stan Fischler’s “The Fischler Report”, as well as a slew of others.

For comments and hip checks, feel free to contact Patrick at patrickhoffman3530@gmail.com or on Twitter at @pathoffman35.