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Hockey Coach Extraordinaire Bob Hartley

Updated on May 18, 2015
Coach Extraordinaire Bob Hartley
Coach Extraordinaire Bob Hartley

In his book 'The Power Of Positive Thinking,' Dr. Norman Vincent Peale suggests that our inherent power of positivity will make us stand like concrete walls against any obstacles that we might face, and will strengthen our determination and resolve never to give way to have it overcome us. Obstacles are certain to disappear after some time because logic says something has to give way in a face-off, and that something is not going to be us!

Coach Bob Hartley is built in the same mould. He totally believes in the power of positive thinking. He feels he has never lost in life, he simply doesn't win all the time. He also believes that everyone can make a difference at any given time, and wants everyone to believe in themselves and perform to their potential capacity. Coach Hartley has an extremely positive disposition, and this attitude has helped his teams, minnows in certain cases champions in others, to believe in themselves and win games as if they were destined to do that always.

Coaches need to be teachers, motivators, strategists, psychologists, and leaders, and when it comes to choosing an all-time great coach with all attributes rolled into one, no one fits it better than Coach Hartley. He has achieved more in life than most men have or will, and has pursued his goal with single minded determination and belief.

Beginnings of Bob Hartley

Robert 'Bob' Hartley was born on September 7, 1960 in a Canadian-French family. His early years were rather nondescript. He was studying at the university in Ontario when his father passed away. He quit studies at 17, and joined a paper mill in his hometown of Hawkesbury where he worked for four years, and then at a glass factory that made windshields for automobiles for another four years. At age 25, he volunteered as the goalie coach for a junior A team, the Hawkesbury Hawks, and subsequently became their full-time coach.

Hartley carried the team through two championships, a team that had an all-time record of only nine wins. He inspired and motivated his team to put in their best, devised tactics to outpace and outmanoeuvre competition, and supported his team through their failures to lead them into ultimate victories. That marked the beginning of a coach extraordinaire who is sure to be remembered one day as one of the all-time greats in the annals of hockey history.

"We found another way to win and it was a special one because we got to taste victory after a shootout. We had a great feeling on the bench, and the boys were having fun with their helmets turned around."

Bob Hartley

Evolution of Coach Hartley as a Superstar

Coach Hartley's impressive track record with the Hawks bought him into attention of the Laval Titan owners of QJMHL. He was offered the position of head coach, took it up, and took the team to a league championship, 1993 Memorial Cup Final appearance, and a record of 81-52-7.

This exemplary track record with the juinior league made the Quebec Nordiques team notice him, and he was offered the position of assistant to coach Jacques Martin for their American Hockey League affiliate, Cornwall Aces. In due course, Martin became the assistant coach of Nordiques, and Bob Hartley was named the new head coach of Aces. He took Cornwall Aces to two divisional championships in a span of three years. The Nordiques team, renamed as Colorado Avalanche, meanwhile became affiliated with Hershley Bears, and Hartley was named the new coach. In 1997, he guided them to the Calder Cup title. He also had an impeccable track record of sending the team into four appearances in consecutive playoffs.

Pierre Lacrois, general manager of the Avalanche team, was meanwhile looking to replace coach Marc Crawford after the team exited in the first round of playoff. Hartley took up the position of second head coach of Avalanche in June 1998. The team had a mediocre start with a record of 2-1-6, but by mid December they had gathered enough fuel and went on to win their first Northwest title with five straight overall wins. The team played the Stanley Cup playoff in 1999, and defeated San Jose Sharks and Detroit Red Wings before losing to the eventual Western finals winner Dallas Stars.

"Our focus is on winning that game. We have no time for that. It's all about winning our games, not about settling any scores."

Calgary Flames salute after winning a game. Source: Wikimedia Commons
Calgary Flames salute after winning a game. Source: Wikimedia Commons
The Avalanche Logo
The Avalanche Logo

Hartley's Second Stint With Avalanche

Hartley started his second season with Avalanche with wins over Phoenix Coyotes and Red Wings in playoffs after winning their division title six times in a row. This year too, they lost to Dallas Stars, the eventual winner of the Western finals. Hartley then gave his most successful stint with the franchise in his third season. Avalanche won the President's Trophy with their seventh league titlle in a row, and had a track record of 52-16-10-4. They began their playoff with a sweep over Vancouver Canucks, a team that was seeded eighth. They then played St. Loius Blues and Los Angeles Kings, won against both, and set up a match with New Jersey Devils for the Stanley Cup Championship Trophy. They won the trophy after an intense match and after rallying back from a major deficit. This was a dream come true for Avalanche.

Hartley meanwhile had moved on to bigger things. He coached the North American All Stars, and led them to a 14-11 record on home ice. His tenure with Avalanche ended in December 2002, and he left the team with a fabulous record of 192-109-48 for the regular season, with a playoff record of 49-31. In fact, his 193 wins as the coach of the team is a record in that franchise history!

One month after exiting the Avalnche, he became the second head coach of Atlanta Thrashers in a fulltime capacity. Prior to that, the Thrashers had a dismal record of 8-20-4-1 up until January 2003. Hartley got down to work immediately, had a record of 20-14-5-1. He also poled the team into playoff. His second season brought more laurels, with a record of 33-37-8-4, which was a new franchise record for points and wins in one season. The third season got even better, with a record of 41-33-8 for the franchise. However, it fell short by two points for the playoff when it fell to Tampa Bay Lightning. During the season of 2006-2007, the Thrashers won the title for the Southeast Division, and Hartley coached them to score 43-28-11 which placed them as seeded thrid in the Conference. The team made their first appearance at a playoff when they faced New York Rangers. Hartley was thus the all-time most successful coach in Thrashers' history.

He subsequently moved to ZSC Lions in 2011, and led them to a win against favorites SC Bern for the championship of Switzerland. After that, he utilized the escape clause in the agreement to return to NHL, and on May 31, 2012 joined Calgary Flames. Meanwhile, Hartley had also embarked on a career in the media as an analyst for RDS, but his fulltime job as a coach for the Flames left him with little time to pursue that.

Team Avalanche
Team Avalanche

Coach Hartley as Inspiration

What do you say of the man? He is happy to be where he is. He has never looked back in life nor has he ever regretted any decision he has taken. When he quit the Swiss franchise to return home, he decided that priority was his family and club despite a fat paycheque. He is adored by Flames' fans, though he believes that whether it's Switzerland, NHL, or Hawkesbury, a coach is judged by the number of wins and losses he gives to his team. He is adored today, may be despised tomorrow, but he and everyone else knows that he will always try to make his team worthy to win every game they play.

"It seems like every game, we have chances to get on the board first but we're not capitalizing. We're firing blanks right now."

— Bob Hartley


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