2/2/2007 8:12:39 PM
OTTAWA (CP) - It's not every day a team gets to honour its coach for stepping behind the bench 2,000 times, so the Ottawa 67's gave Brian Kilrea the red-carpet treatment Friday night.
Kilrea became the first coach in Canadian junior history to reach the milestone with the Toronto-St. Michael's Majors visiting Ottawa's Civic Centre and he was honoured with a pre-game ceremony that lasted almost 20 minutes.
The 67's players took to the ice for warm-ups wearing their traditional red-black-and-white barberpole sweaters, each emblazoned with the name Kilrea and No. 67 on the back. Inside the numbers were a portrait of Kilrea and the team's logo.
More than 60 former players, including nine from Kilrea's inaugural 1974-75 team, were in attendance, along with Hockey Night in Canada's Don Cherry and Ron MacLean.
A video tribute to Kilrea featured taped messages from several players who've moved on to the NHL ranks and couldn't be in attendance, along with one from Canadian songstress Anne Murray, a longtime favourite on Kilrea's bus trips.
Earlier this week, ex-67's star-turned-Los Angeles Kings broadcaster Jimmy Fox said in an interview from Calgary: "It is incredible. You think back, the one thing he wanted was for his players was to have fun. Two thousand games later, he still finds a way to make it fun. I saw him on Hockey Night in Canada (last Saturday) and he still looks good. Another 1,000 more."
After Kilrea took to centre ice for the ceremonial opening faceoff, Cherry and MacLean were joined by 67's owner Jeff Hunt and Canadian Hockey League president and Ontario Hockey League commissioner David Branch presented Kilrea with a framed game sheet and picture from both Friday's game and his first game behind the bench.