Kilrea drew stories, loyalty over 35 years

RYAN PYETTE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:40 AM ET

Everyone around hockey has a Killer story.

When a guy stands behind the same bench for pretty much the past 35 years, as retiring Ottawa 67's coach Brian Kilrea has, he'll see a few things and meet a couple characters along the way.

Like London Knights assistant coach Pat Curcio, who billeted with Kilrea and his wife Judy during his tenure with the 67's in 1992.

Curcio's impressions? Great coach. Awesome man. Questionable chef.

"Killer decided he was going to cook me a pregame meal and this was before pasta was the big thing everyone was eating," Curcio said. "So it was steak and eggs. And at the time, microwaving was a big deal. So he grabbed this steak and thought it would be a good idea to toss it in the microwave and get it heated up.

"It wasn't (a good idea)."

Kilrea's memory of the feast? "Curcio was a funny kid. Still is."

Takes one to know one, according to Ottawa captain Logan Couture.

"I think the biggest thing I'll remember about Killer is his chirps," he said. "It's not just what he says to the referees. The stuff he says to players, the one-liners, are some of the funniest things you've ever heard."

He's had 74 years and a lifetime in the game to polish up on his material.

Everybody has a Killer story. Here's mine:

I was once an afterthought 67's draft pick, but decided against reporting to camp. If the prospect of getting smeared in practice by Chris Simon wasn't intimidating enough, the knowledge Killer played star Mike Peca 35 minutes a game didn't leave many slices left in the ice time pie.

That summer in Sault Ste. Marie, I got home from a baseball game and a little white car with the 67's logo was parked in front of my house. Killer was inside, making a pit stop on his cross-province tour to visit his club's draft picks.

He apologized for coughing and wheezing and said he had a touch of pneumonia. Then, he spent an hour telling hockey stories about my grandfather Nellie Podolski, a former Detroit Red Wing he played with on the Troy Bruins of the old International league 50-odd years ago.

After just 60 minutes, you could sense why players would go through a wall for him. He has that kind of team in his final season as coach.

They've had a more muted rise because of the world junior hysteria and the interest in what's going on with John Tavares. But add the 67's to the short list of teams capable of landing in Rimouski for the Memorial Cup.

They have a lot of the pieces and the motivation. Couture has waited four years for some secondary scoring talent and finally has it.

"It's Killer's last year," he said. "We want to win for him."

AROUND THE LEAGUE

What's with everyone putting their gloves to their ear after scoring a goal so they can "hear" the love from the crowd? It smacks of a hot dog move. Chicago Blackhawks star Pat Kane used to do it occasionally in London, but it's fine when you score 62 goals in one season. You're entitled to come up with different kinds of celebrations . . . Hopefully, Don Sanderson's death will serve to remind OHL players of the importance of keeping their helmets on their heads and tightening those often-too-loose chin straps . . . The standout teams while the world juniors were in progress? Windsor, London, Guelph, Sarnia, Mississauga and Ottawa . . . The OHL-stocked Ontario team won gold again at the World Under-17 Hockey Challenge in Port Alberni, B.C., this week. Sudbury's John McFarland was a scoring beast and showcased why he was the No. 1 pick by the Wolves in last spring's draft . . . If Jaroslav Janus plays the rest of the season for Erie the way he performed for Slovakia in Ottawa this past week, look out.


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