Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Former Oilers Coach Eakins at Peace with Firing, Thriving in New Hockey Hotspot

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Former Oilers Coach Eakins at Peace with Firing, Thriving in New Hockey Hotspot

Article excerpt

Eakins says firing from Oilers was a 'gift'


Most people close to Dallas Eakins don't see his firing as Edmonton Oilers head coach 15 months ago the way he does.

He sees it as a gift.

"A lot of people come at me with 'Boy, that must've been hard, that must've been terrible,'" Eakins said in an interview from California. "Now that I've been out of it for quite a long time I look back and I'm like 'Jeez that was a real gift for me.'

"And it was something now that you learn so many things from. You learn who's with you, who's against you, you grow as a coach immensely. It was good for family to go through it, to face some real hard adversity because up 'til then it had all been rainbows and butterflies."

"I know there's a lot of criticism of my time there and I'm fine with that," he added. "And usually the opinions being expressed, they are so far off it's amazing. I know what went on in the locker-room and no one else does."

Now of the head coach of the emerging San Diego Gulls of the AHL, Eakins is refreshed and in love with coaching once again.

"I'm not sure this could've gone any better if I could've written it down in a script," he said.

Not that it didn't take time to get over his dismissal from the Oilers, who fired him after a 7-19-4 start to his second season.

Being fired was something new for Eakins.

He'd seen the late Roger Neilson, someone he describes as a second father, go through it, but this was different. Suddenly, he was the one stung.

"You feel for these coaches that get let go. You feel for your neighbours in Edmonton working in the oil business and they've been laid off, you feel for people like that," Eakins said. "But now this was me and I'll admit that it is not fun. It's not fun to go through. And it's especially not fun for your family to go through."

To deal with it Eakins became a fan of the Grouse Grind, a nearly three-kilometre hike up Grouse Mountain in north Vancouver. He also reconnected with coaches and players from his tenures with the Oilers and the AHL's Toronto Marlies.

He wanted to get the pluses and minuses of his performance, curious to know what worked and what didn't.

"Looking back at major issues there's not many things that I think we would change," Eakins said. …

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