Junior Giant

CHRIS STEVENSON

, Last Updated: 7:25 AM ET

Ottawa 67's coach and general manager Brian Kilrea is a living legend. The 72-year-old member of the Hockey Hall of Fame is still going strong as he is about to start his 31st year behind the bench of the Ontario Hockey League club. That's a lot of bus rides, Molson Ex and cigars, which Kilrea has been known to enjoy occasionally. Kilrea played for the legendary tyrant Eddie Shore in the minors and played 26 games in the NHL (scoring the first goal in Los Angeles Kings history) before a knee injury cut his playing career short. He coached his 2,000th game last February and ended last season with 1,124 wins, both Canadian Hockey League records. The 67's report this weekend and Kilrea will be back at it again.

SUN MEDIA: Do you still get excited at this time of year?

KILREA: I can hardly wait. I just look forward to it ... the kids coming in. They all come in hoping to make the team and you're hoping to be able to put together a pretty good team. I look forward to the challenge. The day you don't look forward to it is the day you should just move up to be general manager or a scout.

SUN MEDIA: When's that day going to come for you?

KILREA: I just go year-to-year. I feel good this year. Who knows what this year will bring, age-wise and health-wise? I feel good, so I'm not looking any further than this year. It depends on how the kids react, too. We've got so many good kids. If you have a lot of problems off ice, that will wear you down.

SUN MEDIA: What's been the secret to your success?

KILREA: The scouts. They go out and they work hard and each and every year they put the miles on trying to get us the best players. The scouts have continually given us something to work with.

SUN MEDIA: Who's been the biggest influence on you as a coach?

KILREA: I learned a lot from Eddie Shore. Some of the things he taught us were great and some of the things were about the treatment of people and I completely did the opposite. Don Cherry. I've known the guy almost 50 years. Jimmy Skinner, who just passed away. He was my first junior coach. Johnny McLellan. He was the first guy that ever came to me and asked if I thought about getting into coaching. Maybe he saw my play was deteriorating. I never thought of it until he said it.

SUN MEDIA: What would you say is the highlight of your career?

KILREA: I'd say the first is being inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame. So many people I've idolized are in the Hall of Fame. I was never, ever, ever thinking I'd be thought of for the Hall of Fame. It would be closely followed by the two Memorial Cups. The one in Ottawa stands out a little more because it was in front of our fans.

SUN MEDIA: What would be your philosophy for playing the game?

KILREA: I would say to a kid leaving Ottawa, "I hope you learned a little and I hope you had fun." That might be the secret to hockey. But you have a lot more fun when you're winning.

SUN MEDIA: Your practices haven't changed much over the years. Simple and among the fastest-paced anybody will ever see.

KILREA: Move the puck, skate, pass. We do that every day. Pass, skate and shoot. I've never yet put a pylon on the ice. I've had a few play for me, but I've never put one on the ice.

SUN MEDIA: You have had some legendardy one-liners. The best might have been the one about Shean Donovan when he played for you and kept turning the puck over to Niagara Falls. Mike Peca was there and said he had to bite on a towel he was laughing so hard.

KILREA: That was just spontaneous. I said to (Donovan), "I don't know if you're playing right wing for me or left wing for them." We were losing after the first period and then we went out and demolished them and Peca and Donovan did most of the damage. Who knows what's going to turn a team around? You kick butt enough. I think humour might be the best antidote to relieve some of the pressure.

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QUICK FACTS

Q: Who was your hero growing up?

A: Gordie Howe. And he still is.

Q: What's the last book you read?

A: I'm reading one now. I love Agatha Christie, Hercule Poirot.

Q: What was your first car?

A: My mom and dad bought me a 1954 Oldsmobile, metallic grey. It was a great car. I just thought, "boy, we're rich."

Q: What's your favourite movie?

A: Arthur. I love the humour in it.

Q: Cash or credit?

A: Cash. I use a credit card for the club if we're going somewhere.

Q: What was the last job you had outside of hockey?

A: I tried to be the manager of a restaurant when I retired as a player. I didn't know very much. In fact, I knew very little.


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