The 10 Grumpiest Coaches in NHL History
Coaches are paid to win, not to make friends. But over the years, some NHL coaches have earned a reputation as particularly tough to get along with. Here is a look at the top 10 grumpiest coaches in NHL history.
Keep in mind that grumpy doesn't mean that these men were not excellent coaches or good people. Coaching a professional hockey team is not an easy job and can be very stressful. As a coach, a lot of things are out of your control. Still, these coaches tended to be grumpy and tough on their players and, in a few instances, even the press or the fans.
To make this list, you had to have coached in the NHL, so minor league coaches (like the legendary Eddie Shore, who would have won this hands down) and coaches in the WHA or in Europe are just not eligible. The coaches on this list were often yellers or just seriously lacked a sunny disposition.
Feel free to comment and mention any coaches you feel belong on this list. Indicate why you feel your candidate belongs and where you feel they belong on this list.
10. Mike Milbury
Mike Milbury's temper has been an issue throughout his career as an NHL player, coach, general manager and broadcaster.
As a player, Milbury notoriously charged into the stands at Madison Square Garden in 1979 and beat a hapless fan with his own shoe.
As a coach and GM with the Bruins and Islanders, Milbury often yelled at referees and his own players when he wasn't happy with what was going on during a game.
In December of 2011, Milbury was accused (although later acquitted) of assaulting an opposing player during a youth hockey game. He was an assistant coach at that time.
Even as a broadcaster for NBC and NESN, Milbury has occasionally lost his temper and cursed on the air. He is an opinionated broadcaster who makes memorable quotes, but again, he is hardly a cuddly teddy bear.
9. Fred Glover
Fred Glover coached the California Golden Seals and Los Angeles Kings in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
Glover was one of the greatest players in AHL history when he starred for the Cleveland Barons back in the days of the Original Six. He was also a very tough guy on and off the ice.
Practices for the Seals under Glover were not always easy, but eventually, the players figured out how to make them shorter. Glover laced up his skates and scrimmaged with his team. Part of him still wanted to play in the NHL. Once he scored a few goals in the scrimmage, practice was generally over.
Glover once got into a fight at the Oakland Coliseum with a visiting fan who was heckling a Seals fan. In the book Shorthanded: The Untold Story of the Seals, Hockey's Most Colorful Team, Glover recalled the incident. "The last thing we're going to do is let anything happen to our season ticket holders," Glover explained. "We have so few, we can't afford to."
Unfortunately, Glover couldn't stop the Seals from losing a lot of hockey games, and he ended up drinking heavily. One former Seals employee said he was "moody" while another remarked, "Freddie carried so much inside. He was one tough SOB."
Glover was hired, fired and rehired by Charlie Finley, who then owned the Seals. In between, he had a less successful stint with the Kings. In the end, the losing got to Glover, who had a tough time of it.
8. Bob Pulford
Bob Pulford had a Hall of Fame career as a player with the Maple Leafs and Kings and later was a successful coach with the Kings and Blackhawks.
But Pulford wasn't always the happiest man behind the bench. Bob Berry, who played under Pulford in Los Angeles, told Michael Farber of The Montreal Gazette back in 1981, "He [Pulford] made them all better players even though it may have been a pain at times."
Most players realized it was tough to play for Pulford, but they realized that under that tough exterior was a genuinely good person.
Mike Murphy, who played under Pulford in Los Angeles and later coached in the NHL, told Chris Baker of The Los Angeles Times, "He's a very intimidating guy, but he's a softie at heart. It just takes a while to get to know him."
Broadcaster Bob Miller added, "He was all business around his players, but away from his players, you could have a good time with him."
While he may have been tough, Pulford was successful. He won the Jack Adams Trophy as the NHL's coach of the year in 1975 and helped make the Blackhawks a consistent winner in the 1980s after leaving Los Angeles.
7. Jack Adams
Jack Adams is a hockey legend. His name has been engraved on the Stanley Cup as a player, coach and general manager.
Still, Adams was known for his temper and for keeping his own players on their toes by making constant trades so they would never feel their job was secure. The constant trading earned him the nickname "Trader Jack."
One of his more infamous trades came in 1957, when he dealt future Hall of Famer Ted Lindsay to Chicago because Lindsay was active in the players' attempt to form a union.
As a coach, Adams was suspended during the 1942 Stanley Cup Final for punching a referee when he thought the official was being biased. It gave Adams the distinction of being the first coach to be suspended during a Stanley Cup Final series.
Adams was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1959. He served as Red Wings general manager for 36 years, longer than any other GM in NHL history.
6. Ken Hitchcock
Ken Hitchcock has mellowed a bit in recent years, but there is no doubt he has been a grumpy and difficult coach to play for over the course of his career.
Hitchcock has been successful and even won a Stanley Cup with the Dallas Stars in 1999.
Still, he is known as a yeller and a screamer. In 1998, an AP article described Hitchcock as "an in-your-face taskmaster who demands everything his players have to give, then asks for more."
Scott Melanby, who was an assistant under Hitchcock in St. Louis, simply described him as a "hard ass."
Either way, "Hitch" has managed to be very successful at motivating his players during coaching stints with Dallas, Philadelphia, Columbus and St. Louis.
5. Herb Brooks
Herb Brooks will always be remembered for coaching the 1980 U.S. Olympic Team to a miraculous gold-medal victory, including a defeat of the mighty Soviet team.
But anybody who saw the movie Miracle knows that Brooks managed to bring his team together by getting them to unite in their hate for him. He made them do endless skates after practice that became known as "Herbies" until the players were exhausted or even sick.
While Brooks was remarkably successful coaching college hockey and at the Olympics, his NHL results were mixed at best. He coached the Rangers, North Stars, Devils and Penguins but never advanced beyond the second round of the playoffs.
Brooks was a great coach and an inspiration to his players, but he was not a warm and cuddly guy and came across as a grumpy coach to many.
4. Bert Olmstead
Bert Olmstead was a Hall of Fame player in the NHL known for his toughness and his never-ending desire to win.
He coached only one year in the NHL with the expansion California Seals in 1967-68, but Olmstead's intensity and desire were not a good match for his expansion club. Olmstead didn't even finish the season and was let go after winning just 11 of 64 games.
Olmstead was hostile to the press. As Eddie Dorohoy, who worked with Olmstead when he coached the Vancouver Canucks of the WHL said in the book Shorthanded: The Untold Story of the Seals, Hockey's Most Colorful Team, "If Olmstead did public relations for Santa Claus, there wouldn't be any Christmas."
His captain in Oakland that year, Bob Baun, said that Olmstead's training camp "made Punch Imlach look like a schoolboy."
The low point for Olmstead came on Thanksgiving Day in November. The team practiced from 10 a.m. until 11:30 and then the coach called a team meeting at noon. But Olmstead just locked the team in their locker room and didn't return until 5:00 p.m., telling them that if regular people had to work from nine to five, his hockey team would, too. Needless to say, the club had little to be thankful for that day.
Olmstead stepped down before the season ended because the expansion Seals couldn't match his ability and passion. His brief tenure in Oakland was certainly a grumpy one.
3. Scotty Bowman
Scotty Bowman is considered by many to be the greatest coach in NHL history. He won nine Stanley Cups as a coach, including victories with the Canadiens (four), Penguins (one) and Red Wings (three).
Still, Bowman's ways of motivating a team were notoriously difficult. He often gave players the silent treatment or simply put them at the end of the bench and gave them nearly no playing time to show his displeasure.
Rejean Houle, who played for Bowman with the Canadiens in the 1970s, summed up Bowman's mind games by telling Michael Farber of Sports Illustrated, "To understand Scotty, you have to know one thing: What human nature dictates, he does the opposite."
He wasn't always easy for his players to understand or get along with, but Bowman was a winner and eventually, players learned there was a method to his madness. He may have been unorthodox, but nobody was more successful behind an NHL bench.
2. Mike Keenan
Mike Keenan was a successful NHL coach, but his legendary temper and the difficulty many general managers had in dealing with him kept him moving from team to team more often than you would expect.
In a 1995 interview with Gary Smith of Sports Illustrated, Keenan tried to explain away his legendary temper. "My temper is a tool," Keenan said. "I lose my temper for the right reasons, to make players better."
Former Flyers Peter Zezel said Keenan threw sticks at him in order to motivate him, while former Blackhawks forward Steve Thomas said, "Eventually, he drove us physically and mentally insane."
Keenan had success in Philadelphia, helping the team reach the Stanley Cup Final twice. He later led the Blackhawks to the finals in 1992 before they lost to the Penguins.
Finally in 1994, Keenan won a Stanley Cup with the Rangers, although a feud with Rangers GM Neil Smith led to his departure before the start of the following season.
Later stints with St. Louis, Vancouver, Boston, Florida and Calgary were less successful, and Keenan's difficult personality was a big reason for his brief tenures with those clubs.
1. John Tortorella
John Tortorella became a legend on Broadway in recent years as coach of the New York Rangers. But it wasn't for his coaching ability. Although Torts was successful during most of his tenure at Madison Square Garden, he'll always be remembered for the way he treated his players and members of the media.
Tortorella's postgame press conferences were often brief and filled with tirades against members of the media who were just doing their job. His feuds with Larry Brooks of the New York Post became almost legendary.
Tortorella also called out his players, often in public. He once said that forward Carl Hagelin, "stinks on the power play" during a postgame press conference.
When Tortorella was fired by the Rangers after the team was eliminated in the playoffs this spring, the New York Daily News reported that "multiple players" were behind the move to fire their coach. GM Glen Sather added, "Every coach has a shelf life."
Torts did win a Stanley Cup with the Tampa Bay Lightning in 2004. He now is head coach of the Vancouver Canucks. It will be interesting to see if his personality changes at all in Vancouver.