May 29, 2012
Hartley's name crossed off Flames' list?
By WES GILBERTSON, QMI Agency
CALGARY - From the moment Brent Sutter cleared out of the coaching office at the Saddledome, some figured Calgary Flames GM Jay Feaster would offer the vacant NHL position to his longtime friend, Bob Hartley.
If that was the plan, then the answer was apparently ‘Non, merci.’
On Monday, the blogosphere and Twitterverse was spinning with speculation Hartley will be named the next head coach of the Montreal Canadiens. The reports have yet to be confirmed in either official language.
If anybody knows the truth, it might be Feaster, whose long-running relationship with Hartley dates back to their days with the American Hockey League’s Hershey Bears, where they celebrated a Calder Cup championship together in 1997.
Their friendship is so well-known that after the Flames and Sutter mutually agreed to go separate directions, Feaster was asked specifically about hiring Hartley. He was quick to point out that his good friend is only halfway through a two-year deal as bench boss of Zurich Lions, the team he guided to a league title in Switzerland this winter.
“He’s a friend of mine. He’s the godson to my son, Ryan. We worked together in Hershey,” Feaster said at the
April 12 news conference at the Saddledome. “I follow his career because I want to see him have success. He’s under contract there. At the time, we talked about him going to Europe — I knew he signed a two-year deal. This is year one of a two-year deal.”
There’s the rub.
Although Hartley has been named as a serious candidate in both Calgary and Montreal, nobody seems certain he’s even free to return to the NHL.
In fact, Lions GM Peter Zahner told a Montreal-based reporter Monday that “if the Habs name their head coach tomorrow, it won’t be Bob Hartley.
“He’s still under contract with us.”
It’s no big surprise Hartley could be at top of the Canadiens’ wish-list.
As part of a five-year stint with the Colorado Avalanche, he guided a star-studded group — headlined by Joe Sakic, Peter Forsberg, Ray Bourque and goalie-turned-NHL-coaching-candidate Patrick Roy — to a Stanley Cup parade in 2001.
In ’06-07, he helped the Atlanta Thrashers — remember those guys? — qualify for the post-season for the first time in club history.
A Francophone from the Ottawa area, it’s easy to understand why Hartley would be interested in the Habs’ job, too.
It may have been a messy season in Montreal, but the Canadiens are still the most storied franchise in the sport, and their head coaching post is considered one of the most prestigious — and most pressure-packed — jobs in the hockey world.
While the Canadiens are reportedly ready to make their move, the Flames’ coaching search continues.
Whether Feaster was interested or not, Hartley’s name could be crossed off the list.
On Twitter: SUNGilbertson