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AHL coach Jim Playfair not proud of his dramatic behind-the-bench meltdown

Monday, 03.29.2010 / 2:08 PM / News

The Canadian Press

ABBOTSFORD, B.C. - A screaming, stick-breaking meltdown caught on video has turned Jim Playfair into an Internet sensation.

The intense but usually controlled head coach of the American Hockey League's Abbotsford Heat became enraged over the weekend following a call by referee Jamie Koharski during a game against the Hamilton Bulldogs.

A jaw-dropping video on the Internet shows Playfair violently shattering two sticks and ripping off his jacket while screaming at officials.

The video had drawn more than 600,000 views on YouTube as of Monday afternoon. It even made CNN.

Playfair isn't proud of the outburst but he's not sure he needs to say sorry either.

"It is what it is," a soft-spoken Playfair said Monday after the Heat practised. "I'm not going to apologize for it.

"It's part of the emotion level you have to have to get to be a professional person. That's what happened."

The former NHL player and Calgary Flames coach seemed composed but uncomfortable in the glare of attention the incident has attracted. He shifted from foot to foot while patiently answered questions from the larger-than-normal media turnout.

He would have rather talked about Monday night's key divisional game against the Manitoba Moose. Instead Playfair had to find an explanation for something that most people found unexplainable.

"It's not something you are proud of," said the 45-year-old. "It isn't my proudest moment for sure. It's not to the point where it's embarrassing.

"It is what it is. I can't take it back. I can have you check my history and it's just not something I do consistently. It's not a motivational tool. It's something that happened in the heat of the moment."

An AHL spokesman said Playfair has been fined an undisclosed amount for the incident. Asked the amount of the fine, Playfair only smiled.

"Ask my wife," he said. "She pays the bills."

Playfair was upset after Abbotsford's J.D. Watt was given a five-minute charging penalty and game misconduct for running into Hamilton Bulldogs goalie Cedrick Desjardins on Saturday night.

The coach stood on the bench and smashed two sticks several times over the boards, throwing the remaining pieces on the ice. He also ripped off his jacket and yelled at the referees during a profanity-laced diatribe.

"We had differences of opinions," said Playfair, who also was thrown out of the game.

Strangely, it was the Heat, the farm team for the NHL's Calgary Flames, that posted the video of his tirade on the Internet as part of highlight package from the 4-0 Hamilton victory.

Playfair said his own children have shown him the clip "20 or 30 times."

"It's the world we live in," he sighed.

The attention was also frustrating for the AHL, which struggled to get publicity last week when a goalie scored a goal.

The one regret Playfair has is the wrong message his actions sends to children watching hockey.

"I have kids in minor hockey myself," he said. "I understand a parent's perception of it.

"It's not cool. I do apologize to the kids and parents. It's not right."

Soon after the game, Playfair phoned the owner of the Heat, the president of the Flames, and the president of the AHL to explain his actions.

"I expressed to those people how I feel," he said. "It's not the proper action of any type of coach.

"Let's be serious. It's not what you are supposed to do when you are a professional person in a market where we are trying to educate people and kids on how to play. It's not the right thing to do."

Another person Playfair wants to speak to is Koharski, who is the son of retired NHL official Don Koharski.

"I will make the effort to speak with the referee and explain," he said. "He's a young referee that carries around a big family name.

"He is trying to get to the highest level."

Heat defenceman Mark Mitera said Playfair's actions were out of character.

"He gets on guys in practice every once in while but that's the coach's job," said Mitera. "Emotions were running high.

"It's a game of emotions and he was a little riled up at that point."

Playfair, a native of Vanderhoof, B.C., played 21 NHL games for the Edmonton Oilers and Chicago Blackhawks.

A former assistant coach with the Flames, he was named the team's head coach on July 12, 2006. He had a 43-29-10 record with the Flames before being replaced by Mike Keenan the next season.

As far as Playfair is concerned, the incident is over. He just hopes his 15 minutes of Internet fame has faded.

"I'm a live-in-the-moment guy," Playfair said. "I did what I did and I have moved on.

"It's totally off my plate and off my mind."

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