Punch Imlach started as an assistant general manager for the Toronto Maple Leafs. Just a month into the 1958-59 season, the Leafs were in last place. Imlach fired Reay and took over. He promised the team would make it to the playoffs.
With three games to go in the regular season, the Leafs still trailed the Rangers by five points, but in one of the most incredible finishes of all time, Toronto won all its games and the Rangers lost all theirs. Imlach's prediction had come true and he was considered a genius.
Imlach was a no-nonsense kind of coach. He refused to negotiate players' contracts until training camp, feeling that the strategy got the players to work harder because they felt less secure about their positions.
He also had up-and-down relationships with his players. It would all depend upon how they adapted to his philosophy. Multiple times, he would butt heads with such players like Carl Brewer and Frank Mahovlich.
Brewer quit the team after getting into a dressing room argument with Imlach and from there did not return to the league for four years.
Mahovlich for years was bullied by Imlach. He was bullied so much that Mahovlich left the team twice because he was on the verge of a nervous breakdown. Yet, both men put their differences aside and won four Stanley Cups together.
Imlach was a coach who was loyal and stayed close to players that felt the same to him. Players like Tim Horton and Johnny Bower showed that loyalty when both players retired from hockey because Imlach was not their coach. Clearly, if players are willing to retire because their favorite coach is not coaching them anymore, he had motivational influence on them.