The San Jose Sharks will host a special pre-game ceremony prior to the Kings game Tuesday night, honoring Head Coach Ron Wilson’s recent coaching accomplishment. On March 18 at Colorado, Wilson became just the 13th head coach in NHL history to reach the 1,000-game plateau.
Wilson joins an elite group of NHL coaches that includes Scotty Bowman, Al Arbour and Dick Irvin, and is among Ottawa’s Bryan Murray and Florida’s Jacques Martin as the only active coaches to that have reached the milestone.
Most of Wilson’s immediate family will be in town, including his first grandchild, and his Stanley Cup winning uncle.
“We’re very proud of him,” said Johnny Wilson. “In my opinion, Ron has done a great job.”
So could Wilson’s uncle recall when the coaching bug bit his nephew?
“It probably started when my brother was in Dayton,” said Johnny Wilson. “Ron used to do stats. When I was coaching Springfield (American Hockey League) and my brother was coaching Providence, we hooked up for the Calder Cup. I’m going back (a few years), but Ron was maybe 15-16 years old.”
Wilson’s coaching style is actually a bit closer to his uncle’s than his father’s.
“I tried to blend in humor and my brother was a little more serious,” said Johnny Wilson.
Ron Wilson’s father has passed away, but he knows his father would show a lighter side when dealing with his son’s accomplishments.
“Well, I think he would say he’s very proud, but I think he would also hold up his numbers and say you’ve got a long way to go,” said Wilson. “My dad and I calculated that he played in 1,170 games in the minors and he also coached 870 games in the minors. Pretty close to 2,000 games as a player and coach and he had a 152-game career in the NHL and he coached 36 games. So when you add it all up, he’s got like 2,300 games and a lot of bus rides. I am just trying to carry his legacy as far as I can. His legacy is on the Stanley Cup along with my uncle and that’s the only thing that really drives me now is getting my name on the Cup so I can at least be in the same club as my dad and my uncle.”
Wilson’s uncle is hoping for that maybe as much as his nephew.
“That would complete my life,” said Johnny Wilson of the potential Wilson family hat trick with three family members earning Stanley Cup Championships.
There were numerous other influences who molded Wilson into such a strong leader.
“I would have to say my dad was No.1, but I never played for him,” said Wilson. “I also include Lou Lamoriello New Jersey CEO/President/General Manager and I also had Bob Johnson, legendary American Hockey Coach. And then my first professional coach was fellow 1,000 games coached colleague Roger Neilson. Next I would say Pat Quinn ex-Toronto Coach. So when I look at the list, I realize I am in a pretty exclusive club.”
Wilson has been mentored by many outside his immediate family and they all helped give him a strong perspective on coaching.
“You are always reflecting on your career, trying to figure out how you can make yourself better and how you can make your team better,” said Ron Wilson. “I have gotten a number of phone calls from my family and then a call from Lou Lamoille and he put it all in perspective for me. He basically said, ‘Remember this Ron, you are only as young as you feel and thank God you are not as old as you look.’”
Close friend and division rival Brian Burke Anaheim General Manager is expected to attend the contest honoring his college teammate.
The uncle of the current Sharks coach also feels that coaching was much easier during his time.
“Today there is a little more work,” said Johnny Wilson. “We didn’t have videos or assistant coaches. I was the only one and I had to second guess myself. We had the semifinals and final (and needed to win eight games). Today you have to win 16 (and play up to 28).”
Ron Wilson hopes to reach a few other goals in the near future as well.
“I am looking forward to a lot more games, however”, he said. “500 wins sometime next year will put me in a pretty exclusive club as well and it is fun to think of stuff like that.”
Wilson is well-known for his use of modern technology and he passes that knack to one of his mentors, Neilson, who was known as “Captain Video” during his coaching career.
“(Using) video came from being alongside Bob Johnson and a number of world championship and national teams,” said Wilson. “Obviously, Roger and I saw eye-to-eye and I used a lot of things that I learned from him. Along the way, I thought I needed to make a niche for myself, so I stated using computers long before they were en vogue.”
That technology that would serve him well when he took over the hockey team in Silicon Valley.
“I remember the first computer I had was a little Toshiba without a hard drive,” said Wilson. “I was still playing in Switzerland and learned how to use that and program some small things. I’ve been able to turn that (to help my coaching career).”
This season, Wilson has led the Sharks to their third consecutive 40-plus win season, including setting a new franchise record of 46 wins. In addition, the team has compiled a franchise-best 25 road wins in 40 games (first in NHL).
Hired by San Jose on Dec. 4, 2002, Wilson has posted a 152-111-34 record in 297 NHL games with the Sharks and his .589 point percentage is the highest in franchise history. In 1,003 NHL games with Anaheim, Washington and San Jose, he has a 464-423-116 record and has coached the third-most games among active NHL coaches behind (Murray, 1,215, and Martin, 1,009)
In his first full two seasons behind the Sharks bench, Wilson led the team to its first appearance in the Western Conference Finals against the Calgary Flames in 2003-04 and advanced to the Western Conference Semi Finals against the Edmonton Oilers last season. In each instance, the team succumbed to the eventual Western Conference Champion.
In 2003-04, Wilson was named runner-up for the Jack Adams Trophy and was named “Best Coach” by The Hockey News.
Under his guidance, several players have blossomed to earn major NHL awards, including Joe Thornton
(2006 Hart Memorial and Art Ross Trophies), Jonathan Cheechoo (2006 Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy), Olaf Kolzig (2000 Vezina Trophy with Washington), Paul Kariya (1996 and 1997 Lady Byng Memorial Trophy with Anaheim). Runners-up for major NHL awards included: Teemu Selanne (1997 Art Ross Trophy, 1997 and 1998 Lady Byng Memorial Trophies) and Paul Kariya (1997 Hart Memorial Trophy).
Internationally, Wilson has been selected by the United States to lead the Olympic hockey team in 1998, the World Cup of Hockey in 1996 (gold medal) and 2004 and the World Championships in 1994 and 1996.
PAVELSKI CLOSING IN
Wilson will have plenty of possibilities with regards to his lineup heading into the postseason.
is really close to being healthy and it opens up a lot of options,” said Wilson. “Patrick Rissmiller is likely in (for Tuesday).”
Wilson wants all his players game-ready for the postseason.
“I’ll make sure everyone is playing in games and staying involved,” said Wilson. “You might see Davison in (Tuesday). I’d hate for a couple of guys not to play for 20 games and then need to throw them into the playoffs.”