|How much of a difference can one person make? Rhetorical question, to be sure, but ponder these facts. With 25 games remaining in the 2008-09 season, the Pittsburgh Penguins were 5 points out of a playoff position. |
On February 15, Michel Therrien was cut loose and a relative unknown named Dan Bylsma was inserted behind the bench. He had put tremendous work into his career, and while not a star, he made it to the NHL, and played 429 games, split between the L.A. Kings and Mighty Ducks of Anaheim. He retired from playing at the conclusion of the 2003-04 season, and joined the coaching ranks, first with Cincinnati of the AHL, with the New York Islanders in 2005-06 and then with the Wilkes-Barre/Scranton Penguins.
But he only became the head coach there at the start of the 2008-09 season. Five months later, he's in the NHL trying to turn around the season of one of the most exciting teams in the National Hockey League. Down the stretch, the Pens reacted to Bylsma, winning 18, losing just 3 and tying 4, and added 40 points to the team's standing. They clung to their vision, and on June 12, 2009, Dan Bylsma was the envy of 29 other head coaches, when he and his team hoisted the Stanley Cup as the 2009 champions.
Dan took the Stanley Cup home to Grand Haven, Michigan on August 11 and 12. Grand Haven is just west of Grand Rapids, and located on the eastern shore of Lake Michigan. On a clear day (and with optical assistance), Milwaukee is across the lake from the Bylsma home.
Dan is a guy who loves sporting pursuits tied to the wilderness, so asked for the Stanley Cup to arrive at oh-my-God o'clock so he could take Lord Stanley's historic mug salmon fishing (and no, it was not used as a convenient bait holder!).
Four private charters were waiting when the Stanley Cup and Prince of Wales Trophy arrived at 5:30AM, and along with about 20 friends and his 10-year-old son Brian, the Tiara II, Tammy Too, Thunderduck and Living a Dream pushed off from the dock in search of the tender pink salmon flesh that makes for such great eating. Just to be safe, life jackets were placed on both trophies. "
To read the rest of this journal please visit the Hockey Hall Of Fame website.
|Dan and his son Brian sharing a moment with the Cup while showing off a King Salmon they caught on Lake Michigan. (Phil Pritchard/HHOF) |
| The Stanley Cup and Prince of Wales trophies look on as Dan and Brian answer questions from the media at the pier in Grand Haven. (Phil Pritchard/HHOF) |
| Dan brought the Cup to Grand Haven Christian School where he was once a student. |