Veteran Canadian junior-hockey coach Peter DeBoer
has been climbing the ranks to get into the National Hockey League for seemingly his entire life.
Today, on his 40th birthday, he finally made it.
General Manager Jacques Martin gave DeBoer a birthday gift he won't soon forget this afternoon by naming him the team's 10th head coach in the franchise's history. DeBoer will be formally introduced at a press conference Monday morning at the BankAtlantic Center.
"I am very excited about getting the opportunity to coach the Florida Panthers
," DeBoer told the Panthers' Web site. "I am looking forward to the challenge of guiding this franchise back to the playoffs and to putting a team on the ice that our fans in South Florida can be proud of."
DeBoer just finished his seventh season as head coach and GM of the Kitchener Rangers. He guided Kitchener to an Ontario Hockey League title, and as the host team for the Memorial Cup, advanced to the title game, where they lost 2-1 to the Spokane Chiefs.
In 13 seasons as an OHL coach DeBoer compiled 539 wins, including 297 during seven seasons in Kitchener. He led the Rangers to the Memorial Cup title in 2003 with current NHLers Mike Richards
, Derek Roy
, David Clarkson
, Steve Eminger
and Gregory Campbell
, who plays center for the Panthers.
DeBoer also coached Panthers alternate captain Stephen Weiss
and Campbell while leading the Plymouth Whalers of the OHL from 1997-2001.
"When you coach in the NHL, it's all about respect," Brian Kilrea
, the Ottawa 67's Hall of Fame coach, told the Waterloo Record, which covers the Rangers. "He's already earned it. I don't think there's a player in the (NHL) that doesn't know something about Peter DeBoer
DeBoer, drafted No. 237 overall by the Toronto Maple Leafs
in the 1988 NHL Entry Draft, never played a game in the NHL, retiring following the 1990-91 season after playing his third season with the Milwaukee Admirals of the IHL. Three years later, DeBoer broke into the OHL coaching ranks.
He started in 1994 as an assistant for Paul Maurice
with the now-defunct Detroit Junior Red Wings. After helping the team get to the Memorial Cup in 1995, DeBoer was promoted to coach and GM the same year the team changed its name to the Whalers.
DeBoer won 66 games in two seasons in Detroit and moved with the organization to Plymouth, Mich. He coached the Whalers for another four seasons, compiling 176 victories before moving to Kitchener.
The Panthers are the fourth team in the last three days to fill a coaching vacancy. Toronto announced the hiring of former San Jose coach Ron Wilson on Wednesday, former Detroit Red Wings
assistant Todd McLellan
was named the Sharks new coach Thursday, and the Ottawa Senators
announced Sault Ste. Marie coach Craig Hartsburg
as their new coach Friday.
Los Angeles, Atlanta and Tampa Bay still have openings.
"Peter was our top candidate to fill the coaching vacancy and we are very pleased that he has decided to join our organization," Panthers GM and former coach Jacques Martin told the team's Web site. "He is a great hockey mind who will complement our coaching staff very well. He has been very successful."
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