Ottawa 67's honour Brian Kilrea in his 2,000th game
It turned out to be a closer affair than Brian Kilrea may have liked, but his Ottawa 67's came through with a victory in their Hall-of-Fame coach's 2,000th game behind the bench.
Jakub Vojta scored a power-play goal at 3:29 of overtime Friday night to lead Kilrea's 67's to a 4-3 Ontario Hockey League victory on home ice over the Toronto-St. Michael's Majors on a milestone night for the 72-year-old, who became the first coach in major junior history to reach 2,000 games.
The Ottawa native was honoured with a 20-minute pre-game ceremony that featured several former players and NHL executives, plus an appearance by Don Cherry and Ron MacLean of the CBC's Hockey Night in Canada.
Jamie McGinn scored twice and added an assist and Logan Couture had a goal and an assist for Ottawa, which made things a little too close for Kilrea's liking by blowing a 3-1 third-period lead.
Swiss rookie Lukas Flueler made 21 saves in goal for the 67's.
Kilrea, junior hockey's all-time winningest coach, saw his record improve to 1,116 wins and 705 losses with 153 ties, 18 overtime defeats and eight shootout losses.
Scotty Bowman, 74, who's now a consultant with the Detroit Red Wings, was behind the bench for a record 2,141 games at the NHL level, winning 1,244 of them, but Kilrea has done it all with the same team.
The 67's players took to the ice for warm-ups wearing their traditional red-black-and-white barber-pole sweaters, each emblazoned with the name Kilrea and No. 67 on the back.
More than 60 former players, including nine from Kilrea's inaugural 1974-75 team, were supposed to be in attendance.
Cherry and MacLean opened the night with a taped message before appearing in person to kick things off.
A video tribute to Kilrea featured several taped messages from past players who've moved on to the NHL ranks and couldn't be in attendance, along with one from Canadian singer Anne Murray, a longtime favourite on Kilrea's bus trips.
Kilrea took centre ice to a standing ovation for the ceremonial opening faceoff, where he, Cherry and MacLean were joined by 67's owner Jeff Hunt and Canadian Hockey League president and OHL commissioner David Branch.
They presented Kilrea with a framed game sheet and picture from both Friday's game and his first game behind the bench.
Kilrea was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 2003.
Kilrea, who also serves as the 67's general manager, took charge on May 8, 1974, and in his 29 previous seasons has had only four losing ones.
His first game behind the bench fittingly came at home against the Toronto Marlboros, a 9-5 victory on Sept. 27, 1974.