Bob Hartley welcomes challenge with Calgary Flames

The Calgary Flames introduced former Stanley Cup winner Bob Hartley as their new head coach, hoping he can help change the club's fortunes.
Bob Hartley will be coaching his third NHL team in Calgary. (Jeff McIntosh/Canadian Press)

The Calgary Flames introduced former Stanley Cup winner Bob Hartley as their new head coach Thursday, hoping he can help change the club's fortunes.

Hartley, 51, said he welcomed the chance to coach in a city where there's passion for hockey and high expectations.

"I am back in the NHL, but I am in a great Canadian market in a very proud community, very supportive community of their hockey club. What's so important is to create a culture and an identity," said Hartley, who succeeds Brent Sutter as coach.

Flames general manager Jay Feaster and Hartley worked together in the American Hockey League in the late 1990s with the Hershey Bears, winning a Calder Cup as league champions in 1997. Hartley is the godfather of Feaster's son Ryan.

"We've always stayed in touch," Hartley said.

"Bob has won at every level he has coached, from the QMJHL to the AHL to the NHL to Switzerland, and we are confident he is going to continue his winning ways in Calgary," Feaster said.

Feaster said the club was looking for a teacher and motivator who would help implement an uptempo brand of hockey.

Successful run

The Colorado Avalanche won the Stanley Cup in 2001 and reached the Western Conference final on three other occasions under Hartley.

"I didn't lift that Cup by myself," said Hartley. "Many good people guided me, inspired me."

The Hawkesbury, Ont., native was let go in Colorado after a disappointing start to the 2002-03 season, but was hired not long after by Atlanta. He was head coach of the Thrashers until early in 2007-08, leading the franchise to what is still its only playoff berth.

This past year, he led the ZSC Lions in Switzerland to a league championship. The Flames pried Hartley away from the Lions, who were reluctant to give up a coach who led them to a league championship this season. Hartley had a year remaining on a two-year contract.

Hartley, who has also spent time working as a broadcaster in Quebec, confirmed that the Montreal Canadiens had also contacted him about their job vacancy.

When Hartley negotiated his deal with the Swiss club, he asked for an out clause should the Flames, Canadiens or a possible team returning to Quebec City have a job opening.

"I told them 'I will sign any deals you want, but if the Calgary Flames, Montreal Canadiens or even the Quebec Nordiques, if they come back, those teams I would like you remember my picks,"' Hartley explained.

3-year drought

Calgary has not made the post-season since 2008, and last won a playoff round four years earlier, the season they reached the Stanley Cup final.

Hartley said he's already spoken to Flames captain Jarome Iginla and hopes to be in contact with every player in the coming days.

"I'm a big believer in communication," he said. "All players will know their roles and their responsibilities."

Flames forward Alex Tanguay, who played for Hartley in Colorado, gave him a ringing endorsement on local sports radio.

"Bob will be very well received here," Tanguay told The Fan 960.

While the times have been tough for the Flames in recent years, Hartley pointed out that the team finished only five points behind Stanley Cup finalist Los Angeles.

"It just [goes] to show you the difference between being a Stanley Cup winner and a non-playoff team is very, very slim," he said.

"I can promise you and I can promise the fans that we will not only give you entertaining hockey, but we will make sure that the Calgary Flames are a top team in the National Hockey League."