Tuesday night was a big one for two veteran coaches.
The Winnipeg Jets crushed the Florida Panthers 8-2 last night to provide bench boss Paul Maurice with his 500th career victory. He’s just the 20th head coach to ever reach that mark and it appropriately happened near the one-year anniversary of him taking over the Jets.
“I’ve been really fortunate,” said Maurice, per the Winnipeg Sun. “Mr. (Peter) Karmanos and Jim Rutherford are the two biggest influences on me, getting an opportunity to coach as young as I did and then staying with me. That’s really where my thoughts are now. An appreciation in the faith and the support and letting me learn in my job, on the job, which you just don’t get to do in the NHL. Those two guys are the reason I’m here at 500 today.
“I feel honored to be in this league that long.”
Since joining the Jets, Maurice has helped transform Winnipeg into a serious contender for a playoff spot. The franchise hasn’t earned a postseason berth since 2007 and Winnipeg hasn’t seen a playoff team since 1996.
There aren’t a lot of active coaches that have been behind the bench longer than Maurice, but St. Louis Blues head coach Ken Hitchcock is one of them. The 63-year-old coach watched his squad earn a 4-2 victory over the Edmonton Oilers on Tuesday, which tied Hitchcock with Pat Quinn for fifth place on the all-time wins list with 684.
For Hitchcock, this milestone is particularly significant because it’s Quinn that he tied. Quinn passed away on Nov. 23.
“Obviously we had a great friendship,” Hitchcock told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “He was the best manager of people I’ve ever been with in my life. … He was amazing.”
There are some other major coaching milestones coming up. Joel Quenneville is just 16 wins away from becoming the third head coach to ever record 750 victories while Alain Vigneault should also reach the 500-win mark before the season’s over as he’s just nine shy.