Earlier Wednesday afternoon, the 2023 Hockey Hall of Fame inductees were revealed. Among those announced for induction is former Edmonton Oilers Coach Ken Hitchcock. The full list includes Henrik Lundqvist, Pierre Turgeon, Tom Barrasso, Mike Vernon, Caroline Ouelette, and Pierre Lacroix.
Born and raised in Edmonton, Hitchcock spent many years within the Edmonton area. His intro to coaching was in midget AAA in Sherwood Park. It was only natural that after he initially retired from coaching in 2017–18 the allure of being the head coach of his hometown team drew him back into the game.
Hitchcock, 71, spent most of one season with the Oilers. He came out of retirement in 2018–19 to take over after Todd McLellan was relieved of his duties. With Edmonton, he had a 26–28–8 record in 62 games through the end of the season. Afterwards, it was announced that he would not be returning as head coach but remained with the organization in a senior advisor role.
Hitchcock’s decorated coaching career
In the lead-up to his NHL head coaching career, Hitchcock spent six seasons as head coach of the WHL’s Kamloops Blazers, where he led the team to a 291–125–15 record. The team made the WHL finals four times, winning twice.
This impressive record got him to the NHL as an assistant with the Philadelphia Flyers. After four seasons there, he spent the next three years coaching in the IHL before finally getting an NHL head coach job with the Dallas Stars.
Hitchcock spent seven years with the Stars, at the helm in some of those late 90s years that Oilers fans will vividly remember, winning one Stanley Cup, and making the Finals in two consecutive seasons.
After being let go from the Stars, Hitchcock then spent three full seasons back with the Flyers, where his team made the playoffs each season. He was let go in the fourth season after starting with a 1–6–1 record. He quickly joined the Columbus Blue Jackets afterwards, where he spent most of four seasons.
Hitchcock then joined the St. Louis Blues, spending five full seasons as their coach before being let go in the middle of the sixth. His team made the playoffs in each of those five full seasons.
For what was thought to be his going away party, Hitchcock returned to the Stars for one season in 2017–18 and retired after the season. But, that was short lived as he returned to take over as the Oilers’ head coach partway through the 2018–19 season.
A well-deserved HHOF inductee
Overall, Hitchcock spent 22 seasons as a coach in the NHL. In 1598 games, he coached his teams to an 839–534–88–127 (W-L-T-OTL) record. His 839 wins are fourth all-time. And, he won a Jack Adams Award in 2011–12 as a member of the Blues.
Hitchcock is one of the longest tenured and impactful coaches of his generation. The honour of being inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame is well deserved to recognize a great and successful career.
We here at The Oil Rig want to congratulate Ken Hitchcock on becoming a member of the Hockey Hall of Fame!
Photo from @EdmontonOilers on Twitter