The Dallas Stars are bringing back Stanley Cup-winning coach Ken Hitchcock, hoping to turn themselves back into a championship contender.
Hitchcock is returning to Dallas and will be named coach at a news conference Thursday. A person with direct knowledge of the situation confirmed the hire to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity Wednesday because the team hadn’t announced it.
Hitchcock, 65, won the Cup with Dallas in 1999, coaching there for parts of seven seasons from 1995-96 through 2001-02. He has since coached the Philadelphia Flyers, Columbus Blue Jackets and St. Louis Blues.
“Congrats Ken Hitchcock on the (Stars) head coach job,” 1999 Cup winner and Stars legend Mike Modano tweeted . “My schedule is pretty open.”
Hitchcock was fired as Blues coach in February and replaced by Mike Yeo. Even before that, St. Louis had announced it was Hitchcock’s final season there and that Yeo would take over.
Hitchcock replaces Lindy Ruff, who was fired Monday after four seasons in Dallas. The Stars missed the playoffs this year after winning the Central Division last season.
The Edmonton native is fourth on the NHL’s all-time wins list, one shy of legendary New York Islanders coach Al Arbour for third. Hitchcock can now pass Arbour back with the team that he led to its only title in franchise history. In all, Hitchcock has 781 wins, 474 losses, 88 ties and 111 overtime or shootout losses in 1,454 regular-season games. In addition to the Cup in 1999, he led the Stars to the final in 2000.
Dallas considered former Florida Panthers coach Gerard Gallant and others for its vacancy but went with the affable Hitchcock, whose recipe for success has worked through several eras of hockey.
Good friend and Washington Capitals coach Barry Trotz said he believes Hitchcock will be inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame one day.
“He’s a guy that tries to teach the game,” Trotz said. “He’s a little bit old-school sometimes because he’s demanding and it’s funny. When you’re demanding with players, they don’t like it at the time, but when you go away or there’s a change and they come back 10 years later and they go, ‘You had it right. I was all wrong.'”
Hitchcock made the playoffs in all five full seasons he coached the Blues, leading them to the Western Conference final last spring. He won the Jack Adams Award as NHL coach of the year in 2011-12 when St. Louis won its first of two division titles during his tenure.
Blues general manager Doug Armstrong was emotional about the difficult decision to fire Hitchcock and agreed with Trotz about the coach’s impressive resume.
“He’s not here anymore, but there’s one former guy in that room that I think’s going to the Hall of Fame and that’s Ken Hitchcock,” Armstrong said at the time.
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Stephen Whyno, The Associated Press