Throughout his hockey career, Randy Carlyle dreamed about winning a Stanley Cup championship.
He just didn’t imagine he’d have to go to California to do it.
Carlyle, an Ontario native, saw his dreams come true last season as the head coach of the Anaheim Ducks. He guided the team to its first Stanley Cup championship – 14 years after the franchise was born in the Golden State.
|Randy Carlyle won a Stanley Cup championship with Anaheim last year. |
“Winning the championship is something we all strive to do. I wasn’t fortunate enough to win it as a player, and I found a way to do it as a coach,” he said. “It’s just a culmination of 31 years from a playing standpoint and from a management standpoint.”
Even though Carlyle broke into the NHL with the Toronto Maple Leafs over the parts of two seasons (1976-77 and ’77-78), his career took off after he was traded to Pittsburgh.
The 5-foot-10 defenseman racked up 18 points combined in 94 games during his stint with the Leafs. However, he flew past that mark in his first season in Pittsburgh (1978-79) when he produced 47 points (13+34) in only 70 games.
“I was a young player who got traded from Toronto to Pittsburgh and it was probably the greatest thing that could have happened to me, as far as my career is concerned,” he said. “I was a sixth or seventh defenseman in Toronto and I got the opportunity to play in a top-four group in Pittsburgh.”
In 397 games in a Penguins uniform, Carlyle produced 323 points (66+257). He became the only Penguins player to win the Norris Trophy as the NHL’s top defenseman when he claimed the award in 1981. He delivered the best statistical output of his career that season when he totaled 83 points (16+67) and 136 penalty minutes in 76 games.
“Pittsburgh is a great city. I have a child who was born there and I still have some close friends who reside there,” Carlyle said. “When I was there, we were trying to forge hockey into that community. It was great to see them have success with the Mario Lemieux Era and now they have the Sidney Crosby Era. Those fans deserve that.”
|Randy Carlyle captained the Penguins and won a Norris Trophy in Pittsburgh. |
Carlyle never had a chance to skate with Lemieux in Pittsburgh as he was traded to Winnipeg late in the 1983-84 season. He played nine more productive NHL seasons and finished his career with 647 points (148+499) in 1,055 games.
He began his coaching career as an assistant with Winnipeg in the 1995-96 campaign and worked his way up the ladder. He was named Ducks head coach in 2005-06. And, in only his second season as head coach, he led the Ducks to a Stanley Cup championship – the first California team to achieve the feat.
In addition, he led the Ducks to their first Pacific Division Championship in 2007, compiling a regular season record of 48-20-14 for 110 points. The club set franchise records in most major statistical categories, including wins, standings points and goals (254); eclipsing marks the team set the previous season. In 164 regular season games as an NHL head coach entering 2007-08, Carlyle has a 91-47-26 record (.634 winning percentage).
Also of note: Anaheim was just the fifth West Coast team since 1926 to play in the finals. The Ducks are the first West Coast team to win the Cup since the 1925 Victoria, Canada, Cougars, and the first U.S. West Coast team to win since the 1917 Seattle Metropolitans.
Now that the Ducks have reached the top, Carlyle knows opponents will be looking to prevent a repeat performance.
“It was very exciting and kind of surreal at the time. Time flies when you’re having fun and time has really flown by in a hurry since then,” he said. “The thing about winning a championship is it puts more pressure on you next year to come back and have a solid year and put yourself in a position to do it again.”
After playing two games against the Los Angeles Kings in London, England, to start the season, the Ducks returned to the U.S. for three games in four nights, concluding against the Penguins. Carlyle knows this is no easy homecoming.
“We saw them once last year when they played here, and they were on a roll, playing very well,” he said. “It was a high-paced game and everyone expected their level of skill and their ability to move the puck. That’s at the forefront of their game and that’s the level we feel we have to play to. They’re a younger group than we are, but they’re a talented group. They’re a very exciting hockey club to play against and watch.”