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The Plymouth, Detroit, Windsor, Hartford, Carolina Coaching Connection

Updated on September 13, 2013

There would seem to be pretty tight criteria in becoming a coach of the Ontario Hockey League’s Plymouth Whalers. It would seem that once a candidate gets the job, he is most likely being groomed for a bigger job at a specific location in the National Hockey League.

In general, the head coaches of the Whalers have either played for the Windsor Spitfires, Detroit Red Wings, Hartford Whalers or any combination of the three. Quite often, Plymouth coaches end up with the Carolina Hurricanes in the National Hockey League. Of course, this is mostly due to the fact that Jim Rutherford, General Manager of the Hurricanes, started his coaching career with the Windsor Spitfires and spent a season as head coach of the Detroit Compuware Ambassadors (predecessor of the Whalers) before heading to the NHL.

Jim Rutherford was a goaltender in the National Hockey League from 1970-71 to 1982-83. He played several years with the Detroit Red Wings, during the ‘Dead Things’ era. He was a first round pick of the Wings at the 1969 NHL Amateur Draft. Over his career, he also played for the Pittsburgh Penguins, Toronto Maple Leafs and Los Angeles Kings.

Rutherford coached the Spitfires for the last half of the 1986-87 OHL season. In 1991-92, he was a replacement with the Ambassadors mid-season. The following year, he was General Manager of the NHL’s Hartford Whalers. The Whalers, of course, became the Carolina Hurricanes for the 1997-98 season. Rutherford remains GM of the Hurricanes today.

Paul Maurice played defense for the Windsor Spitfires for four seasons from 1984-85 to 1987-88. Paul was a 12th round pick of the Philadelphia Flyers at the 1985 NHL Entry Draft but never pursued a career as a player after junior. For two seasons, 1993-94 and 1994-95, he was Head Coach and General Manager of the Detroit Junior Red Wings (yet another predecessor of the Whalers). In his second season, he led the team to a Robertson Cup victory as OHL playoff champion. The Junior Red Wings earned a berth in the Memorial Cup and lost in the final game.

After one year as Assistant Coach with the Hartford Whalers in 1995-96, Maurice took over the Head Coaching job and continued with the Whalers/Hurricanes until being replaced midway through the 2003-04 season. He returned to Carolina midway through the 2008-09 season, replacing his replacement, Peter Laviolette. He remained until being released just recently.

Peter DeBoer was a teammate of Paul Maurice with the Spitfires three of his four seasons in the Ontario Hockey League as a player. DeBoer played with Windsor from 1985-86 to 1988-89. He showed decent numbers in his final season with the Spitfires, scoring 45 and assisting on 46 for 91 total points. Peter was a 12th round pick of the Toronto Maple Leafs in 1988. He played two seasons with the Milwaukee Admirals of the IHL before handing up the blades.

DeBoer began as an Assistant Coach to Paul Maurice with the Junior Red Wings in 1994-95. He became Head Coach and General Manager the following season when Maurice left for Carolina. Peter stayed in that position until the end of the 2000-01 season. Bucking the trend, DeBoer left the ‘circle of Rutherford influence’ and went to Kitchener to coach the Rangers. He has since become an NHL coach but with the Florida Panthers and New Jersey Devils, not the Carolina Hurricanes.

Mike Vellucci is the current Head Coach and General Manager of the Plymouth Whalers and has been since Peter DeBoer left town. Although Mike played his OHL days with the Belleville Bulls from 1983-84 to 1985-86, he is a local boy from Farmington, Michigan and was a seventh round pick of the Hartford Whalers at the 1984 NHL Entry Draft. Vellucci appeared in just two NHL games as a player, both with Hartford in 1987-88.

With the 2011-12 season of the Carolina Hurricanes not improving much since Kirk Muller replaced Paul Maurice as Head Coach, could it be Vellucci that is next in line for the NHL job?

Which team will go the furthest in their league's playoffs?

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