Coaching a long love affair for Prpich

RYAN PYETTE -- London Free Press

, Last Updated: 7:58 AM ET

WINDSOR -- You can always count on an old friend -- that's a big reason why Dave Prpich is head coach of the Windsor Spitfires for a mind-boggling seventh time.

The 60-year-old Essex native and long-time assistant coach has seen the Spits through many good and bad times and happily grabbed the wheel whenever the franchise needed to be steered through dire straits.

Prpich smiled yesterday as he rhymed off the circumstances surrounding his many hirings. He has worn the typical interim coach tag after the main man was fired in mid-season, like Wayne Maxner in the 1991-92 season, stepped in years ago while Brad (Motor City Smitty) Smith served a 20-game suspension, and also guided the OHL club when old friend Tom Webster was involved with the Canadian national junior program.

"It's five official times and twice just to help out like the Webster thing," Prpich said. "I've never wanted the head job but I always liked being involved. Some guys like to go fishing or play golf. I like to do this.

"I love the hockey."

Few of his stints have been more rewarding than the current one. The Spits stormed back from an 0-3 deficit against the Soo Greyhounds in Round 1 to win four straight and set up their second round series with the heavily favoured London Knights.

"We know there's going to be some big bumps during this series," he said, "but hopefully some of our older guys will see us through those bumps. We know this isn't going to be easy."

Prpich is recently retired after spending 21 years at Riverside high school, where he was the athletic director. He said months ago this would be his final season in a coaching role but he would love to stay involved with Windsor as a scout.

He's been around junior hockey a long time and even spent one season as an advance scout for the London Knights when Gary Agnew was the coach. He has another Forest City connection -- he got his teaching certificate at Western's Althouse College back in the 1960s.

"The game I remember most when I was there wasn't a Knights game," he said. "Some of the guys went to St. Thomas that year to see the junior B team play the Flin Flon Bombers, which had Bobby Clarke and Reggie Leach on it.

"That was a wild game."

In his playing days, Prpich spent time in junior B hockey with the Leamington Flyers and also suited up four years for the University of Windsor Lancers team.

His most memorable OHL season was as assistant with the 1988 league champion Spitfires, which advanced to the Memorial Cup in Chicoutimi, won its first three games and lost the final to Trevor Linden and the Medicine Hat Tigers.

"We had a great team, not as many wins as London does this year but we went 12-0 in the playoffs (with a first-round bye)," he said.

The current Spits are a coach's dream, according to Prpich, who says he's rarely seen a club so good-natured, excited to play and happy to come to practice.


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