Killer's run not done yet

BRUCE GARRIOCH, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:10 AM ET

The OHL's regular season ends this weekend, but Brian Kilrea isn't ready to step away from the 67's bench just yet.

The 67's close out the regular season by hosting the Peterborough Petes tonight and the Kingston Frontenacs Sunday afternoon at the Civic Centre.

But Kilrea served notice yesterday he hopes to extend his final season behind Ottawa's bench for a while longer. The 67's open the playoffs next weekend at home against either the Barrie Colts or Niagara IceDogs, and Kilrea would love to end his legendary coaching career with a deep post-season run.

"It'd be tough for me if I knew we weren't going to be in the playoffs," said Kilrea after lighting up a stogie in his Lansdowne Park office.

"Yes, of course this (weekend) is the last regular-season game and I understand why everybody wants to make a big deal of that. But right now, I know we're going to be playing next week and I'm getting ready for the playoffs. This is the exciting time for me. I'm not going to think about the end until it actually happens, until we don't have a chance to play again."

Naturally, the 67's have a big weekend planned. There will be a ceremony on Sunday to honour Kilrea for his 32 years behind the bench. Meanwhile, the national media have taken notice. Last week, Sportsnet's Ian Mendes spent the day with Kilrea to help chronicle his career. Yesterday, TSN's James Duthie dropped by.

That's why Kilrea was in a bit of a nostalgic mood. He told old war stories about Gordie Howe and Bobby Hull. He recounted chances he had to coach in places like Toronto and Chicago after returning to Ottawa from a stint as an assistant with the Islanders from 1984-86.

MANY WELL-WISHERS

"I never quite felt that I was a good fit for the pro game," said Kilrea. "When I came back I made a commitment to (former owners) Howard Darwin and Earl Montagano that I was going to be here."

Of course, Kilrea has thought about this being his last regular-season weekend behind the bench. How could he not? Many former players have called and friends are wishing him well every day.

"Luckily, we have some playoffs," said Kilrea. "Knowing that we have some playoffs, I know it's not final on Sunday. It may be a different story if Sunday was my last game. Playoffs is what you strive for. Hopefully, we are playing our best so we can advance."

The 67's will play the first two games of their opening series here next weekend and then hit the road for the next three because the annual Home Show will take over the Civic Centre.

"I'd love a good run, but a few teams are going to stand in our way. Whether it's Barrie or Niagara Falls, we've had a tough time with both," said Kilrea.

"We've worked 68 games for home-ice advantage. If you're not ready, you can lose it in one night."

After three decades, Kilrea still has plenty of passion for the game.

"When you know it's the end and it's the last time you're walking across the ice to shake somebody's hand, that's when it's going to hit me," said Kilrea. "Now, it's not. I just hope that we can keep this going for a while. It will be nice that (Fronts GM) Larry Mavety will be here with Kingston (Sunday). We've been through a lot together. That's the nice part."

BRUCE.GARRIOCH@SUNMEDIA.CA


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