A Firing That Turned Into Success
Dec 02, 2014Posted by james
We are in the midst of another competitive hockey season in this area so soon after the New York Rangers played an exciting 2013-2014 season that fell just a few games short of a championship. Leading the team is Coach Alain Vigneault.
Alain spent 36 years living, playing and coaching hockey before he accepted, during 1997, the most demanding position in the NHL. He became the second-youngest coach of the Montreal Canadians.
The Montreal position was his first head coaching job in the league. In three seasons, he reached the playoffs one time. Where Stanley Cup championships are measured not by the season but by the week, he was replaced quickly.
The experience validated his approach as a tactician and communicator behind the bench. The position reinforced his core beliefs that led to seven winning years in Vancouver and his successful debut season with the Rangers. The short time in Montreal, according to one player, put Alain through more than some coaches will see in an entire career.
Confident in his ability when he accepted the Montreal job, Alain also was smart to surround himself with established assistant coaches. With them, he planned practices that were weighted with instruction. The sessions were timed to the second. Hours were spent discussing tactics and devising game plans. He clarified every detail so his players clearly understood their responsibilities.
Alain always has employed a direct approach with his players—candid and respectful in closed-door meetings. He speaks in black and white, and players always know what he is thinking. During the game, no matter the situation, he breathes a calming influence on the bench.
Alain was fired from Montreal for what the team president said was an unacceptable performance. His boss did not take into account that Alain fought through three years of injuries that forced him to integrate minor leaguers who may not have been ready to play in the NHL. More likely, his boss understood the situation, but the pressure in Montreal to win is a daily event. Alain, as the coach, was on the hot seat and he was fired to release some steam.
Ever the diplomat, when he heard the news that he was out as coach, Alain said that Montreal was a great place to coach and that the place brought out the best in him. He took that experience first to Vancouver and then to New York, leading each team to a Stanley Cup Final appearance.
Alain’s philosophy is simple: “Everybody says to be yourself and to stick with what you believe in. If at one point you’re shown the door, at least you did it your way.”
Good advice for coaches and for those of us in business.