DETROIT – Seeking someone with head coaching experience at the NHL level, the Red Wings got their man when they named Tom Renney as the club’s new associate coach on Thursday.
“He’s a hard-working guy who has had lots of success in the game,” Wings coach Mike Babcock said. “I couldn’t have found a more experienced guy – that’s just the facts.”
Renney replaces former assistant Jeff Blashill, who last month was reassigned to Grand Rapids, where he will be head coach of the organization’s American Hockey League franchise. Renney, who signed a three-year contract, joins Bill Peters, who's entering his second season as assistant coach.
Renney has plenty of connections to the Wings’ organization, including a family tie. Thirty years ago this month, Renney married Glenda Gare, the sister of former Wings’ captain Danny Gare.
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But it’s the culture and commitment of the Original Six team that brings Renney to Detroit.
“When you look at tradition, and certainly in the last couple of decades, there’s only been a handful of teams that can consider themselves the cream of the crop,” said Renney in an exclusive phone interview with DetroitRedWings.com. “As much as no one takes that for granted, the one thing that Detroit has been able to do is sustain a high level of play and excellence and pursue playoff spots and Stanley Cups. In so doing, they have really separated themselves from much of the league in most of the seasons, and who wouldn’t want to be a part of that?”
While his job description hasn’t been finalized, Renney is anxious to get going with his new club.
“I know that Mike and Bill and I will sit down and talk that over,” he said. “Obviously, Mike has a real good idea of what he believes we need and how best to utilize his staff. I think that once we have a chance to talk things through, and talk philosophically where the game is and where it’s going as it relates to the Red Wings, those responsibilities will become more and more clear.”
Renney’s appointment gives the Wings the experience that they desired in their next hire behind the bench.
Renney, 57, has been a coach in the NHL for 11 seasons, including nine as a head coach with Vancouver, the New York Rangers and Edmonton. Over the last two seasons, he posted a 57-85-22 record while the Oilers finished last overall and second to last. Renney’s contract wasn’t renewed.
“He’s a quality, quality man, a guy who loves players, is a good communicator with players and appreciative of players,” Babcock said. “I would consider him a players’ coach and with great experience from the Olympic Games, to World Championships to the New York Rangers to the Edmonton Oilers. He’s been around Glen Sather a ton, been around Pat Quinn a ton, been around Kevin Lowe, been around lots of good hockey people.”
Renney, who comes from Cranbrook, B.C. – the same hometown as Wings’ Hall of Famer Steve Yzerman – is a coaching lifer, and it was after he left the University of North Dakota as a student in 1977 that his coaching interests piqued. But it wasn’t until he served a two-year stint with the Western Hockey League’s Kamloops Blazers that his career really began to blossom. It was in Kamloops that he established a .722 winning percentage, which is still a franchise record.
In two seasons, Renney coached a Blazers’ roster – which included defensemen Darryl Sydor and Scott Niedermayer – to back-to-back WHL championships, as well as the 1992 Memorial Cup title.
Renney has coached at virtually every level there is, from the Canada Winter Games, the Quebec Esso Cup, the national under-17 festival, the national U18 team, national junior team, the national teams, Olympic teams and numerous IIHF World Championship squads. He joined Hockey Canada in 1992 and has served in a number of capacities, including head coach of the national team that won a silver medal at the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway. He’s also been involved in 10 World Championships that resulted in three gold medals, three silver, and two bronze.
One of his World Championship triumphs came in 2004, when then-Team Canada general manager Jim Nill hired Renney as an assistant to Babcock on the national squad that posted a 7-1-1 mark en route to beating Sweden in the gold medal game in the Czech Republic.
But what impressed Babcock the most – at least seven years ago – was how Renney handled his star players during his first full-season with the Rangers following the lockout. And his relationship with players hasn’t diminished either, Babcock said.
“I thought he did a heck of a job,” Babcock said. “Jaromir Jagr and him had an unbelievable relationship and Jags played phenomenal for him in New York. I thought he did a real good job in Edmonton with that young group and he played those young guys to help them develop. He played them on the first power play, he gave them a chance.
“Now you know what happens in this business, someone’s got to take the heat, and he took the heat in Edmonton. But we think he’s a quality coach, that’s why we’ve hired him. He knows the league, he knows all of the players, he can give you feedback on all of the players, he knows the Detroit Red Wings.”
Led by such young stars as Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall and Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, the Oilers possessed the league’s top ranked power play last season, before finishing the year third overall at 20. 6 percent (54-for-262).
“In Edmonton, they had the No. 1 power play in the league, he brings a lot to the table, and I think he can do a lot of the talking,” Babcock said. “He can help me out so I can talk less, which I think is a positive thing.
“But the bottom line is he got hired here for the type of person he is, how hard he works, and his experience.”
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