EDMONTON, AB - The Edmonton Oilers Hockey Club is saddened to report the passing of former Head Coach and dear friend of the organization John Muckler.
Muckler, 86, joined the Oilers organization as an Assistant Coach in 1981 following two decades of service at various positions with the Vancouver Canucks and the New York Rangers as well as a Head Coach stint with the Minnesota North Stars in 1968-69.
Highly-respected and celebrated by generations of players and fellow executives, Muckler was a key architect, along with Glen Sather and Ted Green, in helping to develop one of hockey's most celebrated professional sports dynasties.
Video: Remembering John Muckler
Comments from Wayne Gretzky:
"On behalf of the Edmonton Oilers organization and John's many friends in the game of hockey, I want to extend my heartfelt condolences to Audrey and the entire Muckler family. When you have 22 pretty good hockey players and have enjoyed some success it's hard to imagine that the addition of an Associate Coach would be the final piece to getting the Edmonton Oilers to the top of the mountain, but that's exactly what happened when John joined the team.
He was tough, strict, but most importantly fair, and he helped lay the groundwork to make our team more accountable to each other which propelled us to become champions. A wonderful family man and great friend, he personally took my career to another level, and I will always cherish the hours we talked, from breaking down defenses to raising a family. Rest in peace, John, you will be missed."
A native of Midland, Ontario, Muckler enjoyed his first Stanley Cup win in 1984 as an Assistant Coach on the Oilers staff and another in 1985 before being promoted to Assistant Head Coach under Sather. Following two more Cup wins with the club in 1987 and 1988, Muckler was handed the Head Coach reins in 1989 and led the club to its fifth NHL title in seven years in 1990.
After two years as Head Coach in Edmonton, compiling a 75-65-20 record, Muckler departed for the Buffalo Sabres in 1991 as the team's Director of Hockey Operations. It wouldn't be long, however, until his coaching expertise would be tapped into again as he guided the Sabres for 268 games over parts of four seasons recording 125 wins, 109 losses and 34 ties.
After a year away from coaching, Muckler was back at it again in 1997, taking on Head Coach duties for the New York Rangers. His final three years as an NHL Head Coach saw him earn another 70 wins, pushing his all-time win total to 276 over 648 games behind the bench.
Joining the Ottawa Senators as General Manager in 2001, Muckler's hockey expertise helped propel the club to its most successful period after rejoining the league as an expansion team in 1992. Under Muckler's leadership, the Senators steadily developed into an Eastern Conference power and reached the Stanley Cup Final in 2007 before falling to the Anaheim Ducks.
Muckler's final NHL stop was with the Phoenix Coyotes where he served as a Senior Advisor in 2008.
A rugged defenceman who spent 13 years in the Eastern Hockey League before embarking on a remarkable coaching and managerial career which spanned five decades and more than 2,000 games at the NHL level, Muckler also served as a coach for three NHL All-Star Games as well as Team Canada's 1984 and 1987 Canada Cup-wining teams.