Clare Drake was elected to the Hockey Hall of Fame in the builder's category Monday, and you could practically hear the entire hockey coaching fraternity cheering.
Drake, 88, was coach of the University of Alberta Golden Bears for 28 years before leaving the school in 1989, winning six University Cup championships and, perhaps more importantly, influencing hockey coaches around the world with his innovative tactics and teaching techniques. He also coached the Edmonton Oilers during the 1975-76 World Hockey Association season and was a Winnipeg Jets assistant in 1989-90.
Washington Capitals coach Barry Trotz, Dallas Stars coach Ken Hitchcock and Toronto Maple Leafs coach Mike Babcock are among those who consider Drake a mentor and a huge influence on their own coaching style.
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"He's had more impact than anybody at improving the coaching in Canada," Trotz said. "All those coaching programs he ran. I remember when I used to coach [the University of Manitoba] against Clare's Alberta, we'd be scared to death of their penalty kill. His guys went at people."
Drake was unable to take part in a conference call with his fellow honorees Monday, but conveyed through Hockey Hall of Fame chairman Lanny McDonald his thanks for the honor and congratulations to all six people elected to the Hall with him.
Drake is widely credited with changing how a coach looks at the game through a more analytical approach, and he imparted that wisdom to his colleagues by running coaching clinics at the regional national and international levels throughout his career.
"You can go all over the world, China, Japan, Russia, Sweden, and just go ask about Clare Drake," Hitchcock said two years ago, when Drake was inducted into the Order of Hockey in Canada. "And anybody who's a coach who's over 40 years of age will be able to tell you exactly where they were, what seminar they were at, what he taught.
"He put pressure forecheck into the [penalty kill], pressure in the zone, he was the guy who introduced how to teach that; lanes and stick positioning and angles, which 90 percent of the NHL teams use today. His influence is as big or bigger than any instructor has ever had in our sport."