By Dave Joseph for floridapanthers.com
|Panthers New Coach Peter DeBoer who spent the past seven years coaching the Kitchener Rangers.
The Panthers got more than the NHL’s most sought-after coaching candidate Friday when they hired Peter DeBoer.
They hired a two-time Coach of the Year in the Ontario Hockey League, a Memorial Cup winner, and, more importantly, a hard, demanding coach who will not tolerate anything less than the best.
That’s the word on DeBoer, who celebrated his 40th birthday Friday by signing a multi-year contract to become the Panthers’ 10th head coach. And the word comes from two Panthers who played for DeBoer – Stephen Weiss
and Mike Duco.
“He’s a tough and demanding coach but, at the same time, he’s extremely fair,” said Weiss, who played for DeBoer in Plymouth. “He treats everyone the same, whether you’re a fourth line guy or a first line center. He holds everyone to the same standard. You have to be responsible in all three zones.”
Mike Duco, who has played for DeBoer in Kitchener the past five seasons, said; “He’s the kind of coach who demands perfection, right? So if you’re not giving it your all, or you’re not doing your best, you probably won’t be playing.”
An example: In the 2003 Memorial Cup, DeBoer benched Derek Roy, one of his best players, for missing curfew.
“I can remember missing school a couple times and he sat me out of games for not calling in,” Weiss said. “He doesn’t care who it is. He wants everyone to be held to the same high standards. That way everyone knows what’s expected of them.”
Added Duco: “He wants everyone to give an honest effort. He’s all about a good forecheck. He likes guys going hard. He’s want you going into the corner and winning the battle. That’s his main thing. Be strong on the puck and give your all or your not going to make it to the next level.”
And DeBoer has helped several players make it to the NHL, including Panthers Weiss and Gregory Campbell as well as Roy, Justin Williams and Mike Richards.
“We’re very pleased to have Peter join our organization,” said GM Jacques Martin at approximately 3 p.m., Friday afternoon. “Peter is an individual who is demanding but fair and who has good communication skills. He’s an individual with a good hockey mind, runs a good bench, and, to me, is a perfect fit for our hockey club.
“He brings some intensity, some discipline. He believes in the depth of the team. He believes in a pressure game, up tempo.”
He’s also someone who was being courted by several teams, including the Los Angeles Kings and Ottawa Senators. DeBoer spent Tuesday in Barbados meeting with Senators’ owner Eugene Melnyk. Despite being on the short list of several teams, DeBoer ultimately decided the Panthers were the best team to begin his NHL coaching career.
“I am very excited about getting the opportunity to coach the Florida Panthers,” DeBoer said. “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.”
Martin said he believes DeBoer chose the Panthers as his first NHL coaching job for several reasons.
“I think probably, first of all, his familiarity with some of our players,” Martin said. “Also, when you look at our hockey club, you look at the young nucleus we have. You look at (Nathan) Horton, Weiss, (David) Booth, (Rostislev) Olesz, (Jay) Boumeester, for instance, (Bryan) Allen and our goaltending situation. The crop of kids we have coming out, like (Shawn) Matthias, (Michael) Frolik, (Michal) Repik, (Keaton) Ellerby. I think there’s no doubt he recognizes our team is a team going on the upside and one that should be able to make the playoffs next year and keep getting better.
“It’s a sign this organization is making some strides in hiring some quality people and moving forward. When you look at the options he had, the fact he selected our team, it’s a great indication of what’s to come from our hockey team.”
DeBoer has been a winner throughout his coaching career with a combined regular-season record of 539-248-60-31 with Kitchener and the Detroit/Plymouth Whalers. DeBoer has spent the past seven seasons in Kitchener, where he won the Memorial Cup in 2003, took the team to the finals earlier this year, and had 297 wins and a .676 win percentage.
A native of Dunnville, Ontario, DeBoer played in the OHL for the Windsor Spitfires from 1985-89. He scored 45 goals in the OHL and had 91 points in the 1988-89 season.
Selected in the 12th round (237th overall) of the ’88 Entry Draft by the Maple Leafs, DeBoer played two seasons with Milwaukee in the International Hockey League (IHL), scoring 48 goals and 53 assists in 149 games.
Although he retired from hockey to attend law school in 1991 at the University of Windsor, he returned to hockey in 1993 when his roommate, Paul Maurice, offered him a job as an assistant coach with the Detroit Jr. Red Wings.
Although he has no prior relationship with DeBoer, Martin has known of DeBoer’s coaching skills for several years. Martin said both men share a similar coaching philosophy and know the team roster.
“I think what was appealing for him was I coached the team the last three years and I think I have a good grasp on our team,” Martin said. “I think he felt very comfortable with me and vice versa. I felt very comfortable. I like his philosophy. I like the way his team played. I like the discipline in his team and the discipline in the system his team has demonstrated over the years in Kitchener."
Martin said DeBoer would interview Panther assistant coaches Mike Kitchen, Guy Charron and Pierre Groulx before making any decisions on his staff.
DeBoer will be introduced Monday at a press conference at BankAtlantic Center. The press conference will be broadcast live beginning at 11 a.m., on FloridaPanthers.com.