They said it

SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:34 AM ET

San Jose Sharks GM Doug Wilson (Ottawa 67's, 1974-77)

"I talk to Brian a lot. He's a treasure for the game of hockey. He really is. To me, he's probably what hockey is all about.

For the guys that played for him, it was a privilege. I've said it and I do believe this, he's one of the great teachers of life, teachers of men, of anybody I've met in my life.

The hours we used to spend in his basement, with his wife Judy and him telling us stories. The Eddie Shore stories ...

I know there was one time, I can say it now, that I'd been out for six or seven weeks, and we played the next afternoon. Killer sent all the players home, and I was able to stay and have a few extra beverages. We get to the game, and for some reason, a couple of guys couldn't play. I hadn't played in six weeks, and I ended up playing in the game. I was a little under the weather, but for Killer I played my tail off, and we ended up winning the game.

(When you draft a player coached by Kilrea), first of all the player has to have the talent and the character, but you also know he's been treated like a man. I know that when somebody comes through this organization, they can handle being told the truth. Sometimes some tough love.

Killer is a developer of men.

A lot of us came here as boys and left here as men. It's because of Brian Kilrea."

Sens winger Shean Donovan (67's, 1991-95)

"He's going to be missed behind the bench. Obviously, there are lots of memories. When me and my buddies get together, there are so many memories.

When you're 16-20 years old, he does a good job with the young guys. He's hard on them, but you have lots of fun. He keeps it light. He's probably the wittiest guy I know.

As far as hockey, I learned so much from him. And he lets you grow into a man. He doesn't baby you like a kid.

He's done a lot for my career, and he's done a lot of good for a lot of guys in the league. Guys who went on to become doctors, all kinds of different things. He's done a lot for a lot of kids.

He'll be missed.

The biggest lesson is, you always think you work hard enough when you're younger, but I think he pushed me to realize enough was never enough. I had to push myself all the time.

He never lets you get complacent. I think as a young guy, you can get complacent, but he'd be hard on you and he'd want more from you. I think that was the big thing that he taught me.

(Defenceman) Mike Johnson remembers every Killer story. His whole career here was four years of trying to one-up Killer. He never did in four years, but he tried hard."

St. Louis Blues assistant coach Brad Shaw (67's, 1981-1984)

"My best memory of Brian Kilrea: It was after the first period, and I had a tendency to try to hold onto the puck too much, and he's giving it to me in the dressing room. He's right in my face and he says: 'Shaw, I think there's a guy in Section 8 that you haven't tried to skate around tonight. Pass the (bleeping) puck, would you?' He left the room and the guys were just howling. You knew deep down he was laughing, too."

Alaska Aces (ECHL) winger Lance Galbraith (67's, 1996-2001)

"Killer has always had such a passion for the game and for his players. He hates to lose. He made me the person and the player I am today. Playing for him was the best five years of my life. I enjoyed every day of it and miss it so much. Thanks, Killer."'

Radio colour man for Maple Leafs broadcasts Jim Ralph (67's, 1978-1982)

"I had gone to Florida with Billy Kilrea at the end of the season and we didn't have enough money to pay for the room when we got there. So we had to call Killer, and ask him to wire us the cash. We got home and Brian and Judy were there to meet us at the airport. Judy is telling us how happy she is that we're home and Killer's not saying a word. It's just dead silence. Finally, he's looking in the rearview mirror in the car on the way home and he says: 'I hope you guys had a good time down there. Next time, I'm going to send enough money so you two can go to Hawaii.' "

Eisbaeren Berlin GM (German hockey league) Peter Lee (67's, 1971-1976)

"He was the guy who really turned my career around. When I got there, I was a feisty kid who could score. He took me aside and told me that if I was going to score goals, I was going to have to stay out of the penalty box. He worked hard with me on that part of the game. We were kids, but he treated us like men. The best stories are the ones you can't tell, but we were sitting with him in his basement one night and he looked at his watch and it was 11:10 p.m. He said: 'Hey, you guys are out after curfew.' I owe him a lot. He got me to where I was as a player and he gave me a chance to learn about being on the management side."

Windsor Spitfires VP Warren Rychel (67's, 1985-1987)

"I love Killer. I learned so much from him and we try to run our organization (in Windsor) based on some of the things I learned when I was with him. I'll never forget this one time we got to training camp and I played with this guy named Kent Hawley, who had a big butt. So we're going through all our fitness testing and Killer walks into the room, takes one look at Hawley and says, 'Geez, Hawley, did you do all your off-season training at McDonalds?' The whole room just cracked up. Killer always brought a smile to your face. Guys would go to the wall for him. They wanted to do whatever it would take to win."

Senators defenceman Brendan Bell (67's, 1999-2003)

"The thing that I do remember about Killer was mostly his quick wit. He always had a line for somebody and nobody was immune to it. I think the only guy I never heard him poke fun at or give it to was Bert O'Brien.

I just think that's the way that he was in his day-to-day life. He'd come to the rink every day and, whether he had a growl on or whatever, he was always in a good mood underneath. It was all ... he just loves the game more than anybody.

With Killer, a lot of the guys learn when they move on, he's probably a lot nicer guy and a lot more fun guy than you realize when you're playing for him."

He rode guys pretty hard, but I think when you didn't get anything from him, it was when he didn't care. And that was very seldom. I think that was the best part about him as a coach. He really did care about each player and his development.

For me personally, there were times I thought he was too hard on me, but looking back on it now, it probably got me to where I am today.

I think the biggest thing he did for me was fix my work habits, my work ethic. I was a 17-year-old kid that was probably a little bit overweight and didn't work quite hard enough. There was help from some trainers and outside of the 67's, but him as well. It was (about) coming to the rink and working hard every single day, and not trying to get by just on talent alone."

Columbus Blue Jackets centre Mike Peca (67's, 1991-1994)

"Oh, I've got a million Brian Kilrea stories, but there's too much profanity in them to pass along.

No, you know what? The greatest Kilrea story I know is that I got to play for him. That's my greatest story. There's a lot of great anecdotal stories that make you laugh -- things like that -- but he really helped me become an NHL player, one that's been able to play into his 15th year.

He's like a parent. It's not always what you say, but how you treat people. As a junior coach, he treated you with respect, not like kids, even though we were in junior. He gave us a lot of responsibility and trust, and that gave us a confidence he never could have given by speaking to us at that age.

Him being a professional centre, and an excellent passer, he taught me the importance of being an equally good passer from your backhand as your forehand. He taught me a lot of different things. He wasn't overly systematic -- he allowed you as a junior player to develop your own skill and ability."


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