On April 11, the San Jose Sharks organization lost goaltending coach Warren Strelow, following a series of illnesses.
Strelow, 73, passed away peacefully just after midnight in Worcester, Mass., surrounded by his family.
“As we mourn the passing of our friend Warren Strelow, we celebrate the substantial contributions he made towards the success of the San Jose Sharks over the past 10 seasons,” said Sharks President and Chief Executive Officer Greg Jamison. “Our deepest condolences, along with our thoughts and prayers, reside with his family. He will be greatly missed.”
Strelow was in his 10th season coaching the goaltenders in the San Jose Sharks organization. Although a kidney transplant operation and a series of other health issues had forced Strelow to recover at his Minnesota home for the past three seasons, this year his health had improved and he was buoyed by making several trips to San Jose to work on-and-off the ice with Sharks goaltenders Evgeni Nabokov and Vesa Toskala, as well as traveling to Worcester to tutor the goaltenders with the Sharks American Hockey League franchise.
“Warren was truly a one-of-a-kind individual who overcame many obstacles in recent years and was an inspiration to our entire organization,” said Sharks Executive Vice President and General Manager Doug Wilson. “His passion for the game of hockey will always live in our hearts and we will carry on with Warren’s life-long dream of winning the Stanley Cup. He will always be with us.”
Known throughout the hockey world for his expertise and results in training young goaltenders, Strelow was widely regarded as the best in his profession.
Strelow served as goaltending coach for the U.S. Men’s Ice Hockey team at the 1980 Olympics in Lake Placid, where the squad, coached by the late Hockey Hall of Famer and Strelow’s long-time friend Herb Brooks, pulled off the “Miracle on Ice” victory against the Soviet Union and later won the gold medal against Finland. Jim Craig, who backstopped Team USA to those impressive victories, credited Strelow as one of the main reasons for his success in the tournament. Strelow reprised his role with the U.S. Men’s Team at the 2002 Winter Games in Salt Lake City where the team captured the silver medal.
In 2004, Strelow was inducted into the United States Hockey Hall of Fame, along with the 1980 U.S. Olympic Team.
He was hired by the Washington Capitals as the first full-time goalie coach in the NHL, where he coached from 1983-1989. During a five-year period as an NHL coach, Strelow’s goaltenders with the Capitals posted the lowest composite goals-against average in the League, including winning one Jennings Trophy, emblematic of the goaltending tandem with the lowest goals-against average in a season. They also finished second in the League three times. Two of his goaltenders (Al Jensen and Pat Riggin) were named to the NHL All-Star Team and the Capitals won the 1988-89 Patrick Division Championship. Strelow also spent two seasons as a scout for the Capitals.
He served in a similar role with the New Jersey Devils from 1990-1993.
Hired by San Jose in 1997, Strelow helped the Sharks organization become widely recognized as one of the best consistent developers of goaltending talent in the NHL.
Under Strelow’s tutelage in 2000-01, four goaltenders in the Sharks system were named to their respective league’s All-Star Teams - Evgeni Nabokov-NHL, Miikka Kiprusoff-AHL, Terry Friesen-WCHL and Johan Hedberg-IHL.
Nabokov also won the Calder Trophy as the NHL’s Rookie of the Year in 2001. In addition, Strelow’s other former pupils include 2003-2004 Vezina Trophy winner Martin Brodeur and ex-Sharks goaltender 2006 Vezina Trophy winner Kiprusoff (Calgary Flames), who made a point to acknowledge Strelow in his acceptance of the award last June.
Before being hired by Washington, Strelow spent eights seasons as a scout: four with Calgary of the World Hockey Association and four with the National Hockey League’s Central Scouting Department.
Strelow served as the goaltender coach at the University of Minnesota from 1974-83. During Strelow’s eight seasons at Minnesota, the Golden Gophers won three NCAA Division I National Championships and twice finished runner-up.
Strelow’s coaching career began as the head Varsity Football, Hockey and Baseball coach at Concordia Academy in St. Paul, Minnesota, followed by two seasons at Breck School as head hockey coach. He then was hired as varsity hockey and baseball coach at Mahtomedi High School, where he also taught social studies and english for 18 years.
For more than 30 years, players of all ages have attended the Strelow Goalie School in Minnesota during the summer, where players work on developing all phases of their game.
In 1996, Strelow was inducted into the Minnesota High School Coaches Hall of Fame. In the spring of 2006, he was inducted into the City of St. Paul, Minnesota Athletic Hall of Fame.