The banner that hangs in the University of Alberta campus arena that is named after him reads:
Canadian University Hockey's Most Successful Coach
- 28 Seasons
- 697 Wins
- 296 Losses
- 37 Ties
- 6 National Championships
- 17 Conference Championships
U of A would need more than a dozen banners to highlight Drake's long list of accomplishments.
One of my favourites came in the 1967-68 academic year. On Nov. 25, he steered the Golden Bears football team to a 10-9 win in the Vanier Cup title game and less than three months later on Mar. 10, Drake guided his hockey team to a 5-4 win against Loyola in the University Cup final at the Montreal Forum.
The only honour missing for Drake was induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame. In a long overdue move, the 89-year-old Drake will be inducted as a builder on Monday. A builder is a slight to Drake. He has been so much to so many and the way the game is played today is because of his influence.
Unfortunately, the HHOF committee took this long to finally come around on Drake the gracious coach won't be in Toronto for the induction ceremony on Monday. He gets around in a wheelchair these days and lives in an assisted-care facility in Edmonton.
So instead, his 36-year-old grandson, Mike Gabinet, will say a few words on Drake's behalf. Dolly and Clare Drake have two daughters, Debbie and Jamie. Mike is Debbie's son and he went into the family business — coaching.
He's in his first year as head coach of the University of Nebraska at Omaha, where he patrolled the blue line and graduated with a degree in business finance in 2004.
In late September, a couple of HHOF representatives visited Drake and presented him with his HHOF blazer.
Friends from the hockey community have dropped by to see Drake for decades. As successful as he was behind the Golden Bears bench, he always has been a willing mentor to so many.
Compared to NCAA great John Wooden
"I compare him to John Wooden," Toronto Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock said earlier this week, invoking the memory of the late great UCLA basketball coach. "If he was in the U.S., with his notoriety in the game, that's what he'd be.
"He's a champion of men, made people better. Most of his players went on to be doctors and lawyers and businessmen rather than professional athletes. In saying all that, I think he helped tons of coaches. I know he had an impact on me.
"A great, great man. I'm proud of the fact that he's going to get the opportunity."
Babcock, Billy Moores, Dave King, Bob Murdoch, Barry Trotz, Tom Watt, Mike Johnston, George Kingston, Ken Hitchcock, Tom Renney and the late Wayne Fleming are some of the coaches who have dotted the NHL landscape under Drake's influence.
Drake believed in sharing his theories. He gave away so much for free. It didn't matter that he coached against Trotz or Kingston or Watt or Fleming. He was the innovator and he still had the upper hand.
There are so many parts of Drake's philosophy with just as much attention to what was happening off the ice as to on the ice.
On the ice he wanted his team to focus to set the tempo and to never sit back. Off the ice, he stressed to his players to have self-discipline, positive self-talk and for veterans to mentor the young players.
"It's amazing what can be accomplished when no one cares who gets the credit," was one of his favourite mottos, something he borrowed from Wooden.
Johnston and former NHLer Ryan Walter put together a wonderful book in 2004 called Simply the Best: Insights and Strategies from Great Hockey Coaches. Of course, there was a chapter on Drake and in it he shared his insight on the importance of team guidelines he preached to his players.
"Some of the guidelines stressed the importance of being personally responsible for your actions and maintaining a positive, enthusiastic attitude," he said in the book. "Showing respect to all those involved in the game, developing consistency and strong habits of discipline. These characteristics were part of what we felt would become our 'championship habits.'
"We wanted things spelled out clearly, discussed and understood, and we wanted everyone on the same page and committed to the guidelines."
That would make a nice banner, too.