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Stanley Cup-winning coach does smile... sometimes

by John McGourty /

Anaheim Ducks head coach Randy Carlyle watches his team practice Friday Sept. 28, 2007.
It's long been said to never judge a book by its cover. Ditto when it comes to Anaheim Ducks coach Randy Carlyle's game face.

When Michael Olesker wrote for the now defunct Baltimore News-American, he described the rival Baltimore Sun as "arriving on the doorstep each morning with all the warmth and humor of a bank vault."

That's a good description of the expression the reigning Stanley Cup-winning coach wears behind the Ducks' bench. Not as bad, maybe, as Mike Tyson's pre-fight stare, but right up there with New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg's cold-fish expression.

Picture Randy Quaid with a thigh cramp.

This Carlyle must be a nasty guy to be around, eh?

Not so, say those who have known him the longest, guys who played hockey with him more than 30 years ago and have liked him since. Behind that baleful stare, is a warm, fun-loving guy who knows when it's time to work and when it's time to play.

"That serious game face that Randy has? Randy has always had that when it was time to play," said fellow Sudbury, Ontario, native Ron Duguay, who played on the OHL Sudbury Wolves in the 1970s with Carlyle and Ducks assistant coach Dave Farrish. "That's Randy and that's what we saw too as young players. He always came to play and he didn't say a lot, unless something had to be said. Off the ice, he was as much fun as anyone. He could joke around in practice, but he always turned it around so that we would be serious about the work. It's fair to say Randy was more serious than most players.

"As a player, he was very calculating and looking to exploit the other team’s weaknesses. He wouldn't show them much, either. We used to tease Randy about his weight, but that was just his body shape. He had great endurance. You'd see him skate a long shift, come back to the bench and 30 seconds later, he was back out there."

"That's the way Randy was as a player," Farrish said. "When it's time to work, he's all about work but away from the rink, he's a great family man and a fun-loving guy. He enjoys all aspects of outdoor life. He really enjoys life and is very active, not a couch potato. Make no mistake, though, he really enjoys his work."

Humility runs like a vein through Carlyle the same way nickel runs in veins beneath Sudbury. He feels no need to impress you with his intelligence and that leaves him free to be himself, Farrish said.

"Randy has a good sense for when to push and when to relax," Farrish said. "We had a couple of unusual incidents last year. We were in Vancouver in the dog days of February. The team had been working hard, so Randy decided that instead of practicing, we would take a team bike ride around Stanley Park, which is beautiful. We went all around the perimeter of the park and that night we won the game.

"Before Game 7 of our first playoff series, against Calgary, Randy took the team to a pool hall across the street. We shot some pool and ate some wings. Meanwhile, they were showing an old game on TV and there was a young Randy Carlyle playing for Winnipeg. The kids were really teasing him, really carving him up and laughing. We won that game too.

"Those are the types of things that you see when you see the other side of Randy."

"Randy was always ready to play," recalls former NHL goalie and current Detroit Red Wings scout Jim Bedard, who played on that Wolves' team. "In juniors, you've got that age gap, 16-to-20, and Randy was really good with the younger players, always encouraging them and sometimes delivering a wake-up call; 'C'mon kid, the bell's about to ring.'

"Randy was just an automatic leader. He would walk around the room before the coach came in, tapping pads and looking guys straight in the eye, asking; 'Are you ready to play?' He had that half-funny, half-serious way that other guys couldn't get away with, but Randy could.

"I've always remembered the way Randy mentored Dave Hunter," Bedard continued. "We didn't see much in Dave at that point, but Randy disagreed and said Dave was going to be a good player. Randy really helped Dave develop."

There aren't a whole lot of people on this Earth that you can ask; "Why are you so mean looking?" Farrish suggested we try it, that Carlyle would get a kick out of it and be ready to explain himself.

"You take on that personality because it is a very serious position and you are expected to be the guy who creates the leadership and direction," Carlyle said. "From my standpoint, I couldn't do it any other way. I'm very serious when I get to the rink."

Carlyle's friendship with, loyalty to, and dependence on Farrish offers insight into Carlyle's makeup.

Carlyle was a great mentor as a player and he is now as a coach.
"Randy and I grew up in adjacent subdivisions. He was a year older," Duguay said. "He lived in Chelmsford and I lived in Hamner. We always played against each other until there was a regional all-star team that my dad was coaching. He picked up Randy because we needed a defenseman and that's when Randy and I got to play together. Randy had been playing center and defense."

"Dave came up to Sudbury from the Sarnia area," Duguay recalled. "I just remember Dave's personality, his dry sense of humor and one-liners. He was a great guy and always up to something funny. Dave was very mature, a good student and he showed leadership. Dave's like that, he can be very smart and/or very funny which is a good combination. I always looked up to Dave as a player.

"The scouts saw Dave had sound techniques and that he was very defensive minded. He had offensive ability, he could score on the power play, but he was mostly a defensive defenseman."

Carlyle, Duguay, Farrish and Bedard went on to successful NHL careers. Farrish, also a year older than Duguay, preceded him to the New York Rangers in 1976-77. Duguay arrived the following season and feels he benefited from having a friend on his first NHL team.

"That made me very comfortable, knowing someone who had already gone through the experience of breaking into the NHL and playing for the Rangers," Duguay said. "We had four or five younger guys come up that year, including me, and Dave made a big difference. I felt at home."

"We had an opportunity to play junior hockey in our hometown and that was something very special for us," Carlyle recalled. "It was the best team we'd ever played on, up to that point in our lives. We didn't win a Memorial Cup because we lost to Hamilton in the OHL playoff final series.

"My dad worked as a maintenance mechanic at INCO, the mining company, in a blue-collar town where you have to earn everything that you get," Carlyle said. "The Wolves were a big deal in Sudbury and the players became very close."

"When Ron said we grew up in adjacent developments, remember we're talking Northern Ontario," Carlyle laughed. "We were probably at least 10 miles apart. But we played with and against each other in winter hockey and summer baseball. We played hardball against each other at Carol Richard Park. Dave Taylor, from Levack, was in that league and so was Dale McCourt from Falconbridge. I played sports against a lot of people that wound up in the NHL."

"Dave Farrish and I have known each other for a long time and it was in junior hockey that we built our relationship," Carlyle said. "When our playing days were over, we both got into coaching. He started before I did, while I was still playing for Winnipeg. He started coaching the AHL team in Moncton, New Brunswick, about six years before I became an assistant coach with the Jets so his experience outweighs mine.

"He has so much experience from coaching in the AHL, the ECHL and the IHL. I asked him to join me here because I just trusted that I knew the individual. He saw the game the way I saw it and the way it should be played. It's a huge trust factor that you have to have."

The Ducks won the Stanley Cup with great goaltending, a blend of experience and youth, a strong attack and lots of hitting, but it was a kind of controlled aggression that allowed the Ducks to quickly gain an advantage over opponents, who eventually wilted under pressure.

So, Coach Carlyle, do you like a wide-open game and is that the same style you were using with the AHL Manitoba Moose?

"I wouldn't describe the Ducks' style of play as 'wide-open,’" Carlyle said. "But I would consider it aggressive. Our players are committed to playing a physical brand of hockey. We play an up-tempo, forechecking game. That's the style we preached in Manitoba. The teams that are going to have success have to be able to play that style at this level."

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