Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Hitchcock Says Legendary University of Alberta Coach Clare Drake Changed Hockey

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Hitchcock Says Legendary University of Alberta Coach Clare Drake Changed Hockey

Article excerpt

Hitchcock says Clare Drake changed hockey

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Ken Hitchcock says much of the way hockey is played today comes from legendary University of Alberta coach Clare Drake.

Hall of Famer Drake, who died Sunday in his sleep at 89, drew accolades from across Canada for a career that saw him take the Golden Bears to six national championships and 17 conference titles in 28 seasons.

Many have called him an innovator whose ideas influenced a generation of coaches, including NHL veteran Hitchcock.

"He challenged the status quo on aggressive team play without the puck," Hitchcock said Monday in a telephone interview. "He was the first coach I knew who brought the aggressive style and pressure defence into the game.

"Defencemen pinching. Aggressive penalty killing. He coached a game in which the opponent was constantly under harassment in all three zones. Five-on-five. Five-on-four."

He said Drake's ideas were picked up by NHL teams, notably the great Edmonton Oilers teams of the 1980s, until they "became part of the fabric of the game."

Hitchcock, who retired from coaching when the St. Louis Blues' season ended and who is now a consultant for the Dallas Stars, was just as impressed with Drake's generosity with other coaches. Instead of keeping his ideas to himself, he would freely share his data, sometimes even explaining to opposing coaches exactly how the Golden Bears beat them.

He recalled the coaching clinics across western Canada where Drake, Dave King, George Kingston, Bob Hindmarch and others working for Hockey Canada's program of excellence would have beers with young coaches after their symposiums were done and continue the lessons for hours.

"I remember times we'd be in a bar and we'd run out of napkins because of all the things these guys would write on them, and at the end I'd pick them all up," said Hitchcock. "He comes from a time of sharing and a lot of us are grateful for what he did."

Drake did not spend his entire career at Alberta. He was the head coach of the Oilers in the defunct WHA in 1975-76 and was an assistant with the Winnipeg Jets in 1988-89. He also worked for Hockey Canada, coaching the Olympic team in 1980 and leading Canada to its first Spengler Cup title in 1984. …

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