When it comes to job stability for coaches in professional sports – perhaps especially hockey – cases like Lindy Ruff’s are rarer than a Derek Boogaard goal.
The scrappy coach will appear behind a bench for the 1,000th time tonight, all with the first team that hired him: the Buffalo Sabres.
Along with general manager Darcy Regier, Ruff fought through all kinds of changes, challenges and bumps in the road to accomplish something that few can even imagine in this current sports climate.
Want to get an idea of how rare it is? Here’s one number that’s pretty stunning: 155. That’s the number of coaching chances that took place since the Sabres hired Ruff after firing Ted Nolan.
If that’s not interesting enough for you, here are a few other illuminating facts about Ruff’s rare run that will give you some context on just how uncommon his tenure has been.
Ruff will become the 18th NHL coach to reach 1,000 games – to tie his former mentor, the late Roger Neilson – and join Al Arbour (1,500 with the Islanders) and Billy Reay (1,012 with Chicago) as the only ones to do it with one team.
“That’s a tribute to him, let me tell you,” Arbour said. “In some places, you lose a couple of games and they fire you. I mean, things are tough right now for Buffalo, but I know he’s going to get over it. You just hang in there.”
Ruff has endured three ownership changes, the franchise declaring bankruptcy in 2003, five seasons of missing the playoffs, as well as the highs and lows that came with four Eastern Conference finals appearances and Buffalo’s 1999 run to the Stanley Cup final. That championship run ended with Dallas winning on Brett Hull’s triple-overtime clincher in Game 6 – a goal still disputed in Buffalo because Hull’s skate was inside the crease.
As you probably know, this season might pose one of the greatest threats to the status of the league’s most tenured coach. The Sabres are tied for the second least points in the league (4-9-2 for 10 points) and the team is a pitiful 0-6-1 at home.
Yet, if any coach can survive this situation, it’s the resilient Ruff. Congrats to him on an outstanding milestone … one that might only be matched by one other active coach: Barry Trotz of the Nashville Predators.