The “top fives” continue with the top five coaches in Regina Pats’ history. In comparing the previous top five’s, this one was the most difficult. The pool of forwards, defensemen, and goaltenders was much deeper so to speak. In the 52 seasons that Pats have played in the WHL, they have employed a whopping 29 head coaches.
Bryan Murray 1979-80
Although he only coached one season for the Pats Bryan Murray ranks fifth. Murray was hired on July 10, 1979, after a few seasons coaching in the Junior A ranks in Ontario.
The 1979-80 Pats went 47-24-1 and had five 100-point scorers. Team captain and leading scorer Doug Wickenheiser had a Pats’ record of 89 goals, he was also WHL and CHL player of the year. Three first-round NHL picks (Wickenheiser-first, Darren Veitch-fifth, and Mike Blaisdell-eleventh).
The Pats’ playoff run included them sweeping the Lethbridge Broncos in the first round. They then played the Brandon Wheat Kings and Medicine Hat Tigers in a round-robin and qualified for the East Division final against the Tigers. The Pats won that in five games. In the WHL final the Pats played the Victoria Cougars and won that series in five games. The Pats went on to play in the Memorial Cup. The Pats could not get their game together and the Memorial Cup tournament did not go their way. Some shenanigans ensued and the Pats did not make it to the final.
Bryan Murray told this to Dave Senick of the Regina Leader-Post
”It’s a very obvious fix,” said Murray. “The Peterborough coach (Mike Keenan) should be suspended, put out of hockey for a year, the team should be fined and the Pats and Cornwall should play in the final. But I know that won’t happen because no one has the guts to do it.
They’ve (Petes) destroyed the national championship and everything it stands for.”
Murray finished with the Pats as a WHL Champion and Memorial Cup finalist.
On June 12, 1980, he resigned to become the head coach of the Hershey Bears in the AHL.
He was diagnosed with colon cancer in 2014 and on August 12, 2017, he died.
Rich Preston 1995-97
Fourth on the list and one of two ex-Pats is Rich Preston. An ex-NHL player and ex-WHA player. On July 15, 1995, Preston was hired by the team. He joined the Pats after four seasons (1991-92 to 1994-95) as an assistant coach with the Chicago Blackhawks.
In his first season with the Pats, they were coming off a 26-win season. The team went 37-33-2 which is an eleven-win improvement. The team went into the playoffs and swept the Hurricanes in the first round. In the second round, the Pats faced the Raiders and took a 3-1 series lead, and were doing well. In that fourth game Pats starting goaltender, Chad Mercier was hit by a Raider forward and was injured. Mercier tried to play through the injury, but the Pats fell in seven games.
In his second season, the Pats improved their record to 42-27-3. In the playoffs, they faced the Red Deer Rebels. The Rebels had the Pats number and won the first-round series in just five games.
Preston resigned from the Pats on May 8, 1997, to pursue an NHL opportunity with the Calgary Flames.
He is currently an assistant coach with the Anaheim Ducks.
Fun fact: Rich’s dad Ken Preston was the Saskatchewan Roughriders (CFL) general manager from 1958 to 1977.
Bob Turner 1966-68, 1970-71, 1972-77
The second ex-Pat on this list, Bob Turner comes in is third on our list.
After a successful professional career, Turner joined the Pats as head coach on September 17, 1965. He coached the team for four seasons, two of those in what is now the WHL. In those two seasons, he helped guide the Pats to the 1967 league final. He resigned on July 25, 1969, to become a scout with the Oakland Seals.
After a season away from the club, Turner returned to the Pats on June 16, 1970. The Pats had just rejoined the WHL and with some quality players in the lineup, the Pats could not gain traction finishing eight games under 500. The Pats faced the Flin Flon Bombers in the first round and lost in six games (1-4-1) being outscored 29-14 in the process. He resigned on August 24, 1971, to once again joining the NHL scouting ranks with the California Golden Seals.
After missing one season Turner was again hired on June 13, 1972. After the Pats won 43 games in 1971-72, the 1972-73 team underperformed winning just 30 games before being swept by Flin Flon in the first round.
With a similar lineup, the 1973-74 Pats performed up to their expectations going 43-14-11 and finishing first overall. They dispatched the Saskatoon Blades and the Swift Current Broncos in six games in the first two rounds. This set up a WCHL final with the Calgary Centennials. The Pats swept the Centennials aside in four games and booked their ticket to the Memorial Cup.
1974 Memorial Cup
The Pats opened the Memorial Cup tournament with a 4-0 win over the St. Catharines Black Hawks. Two days later the Pats fell to the Quebec Remparts by a score of 5-3. All three teams finished the round-robin at 1-1. The Pats had the best goals for/goals against (at plus two) and received a bye to the final. Quebec rebounded from their round-robin loss to St. Catharines by beating them 11-3 setting up a Pats/Remparts final.
The Remparts took a 3-1 lead after the first period and it was not looking good for the Pats. A switch flipped in the second period and the Pats scored four goals while outshooting Quebec 22-4 in the frame. Quebec scored to get within a goal before the Pats sealed the deal with two late goals. The Pats won the game 7-4 and were the 1974 Memorial Cup Champions.
The May 13th Leader-Post Sports section headline read:
“Regina Pats have had their ups and downs throughout the 1973-74 season, but today the downs are distant history, mainly because… THE PATS ARE NUMBER 1”
In the 1974-75 team, the Pats were decimated by losing numerous graduating players to the pros. Despite finishing seven games under .500, the Pats were a determined bunch and were beat in the eastern final by the Saskatoon Blades in five games. In 1975-76 the Pats had a few more graduations and felt it going 22-42-8. In the first round, the Pats lost to the Victoria Cougars in six games (1-4-1). Things hit rock bottom in 1976-77. After starting the season 2-32-5 the Pats fired Turner and general manager Del Wilson on January 9, 1977. Turner died on February 7, 2005.
A quick stat check:
His WHL numbers might surprise you. He coached 499 regular-season games over 8 seasons. His career record is 214-229-56. In the playoffs, he went 30-33-3 in 66 games. Overall Turner coached ten seasons and a total of 601 games. His record was 274-263-64. He coached 97 playoff games going 47-47-3.
John Paddock 2014-18
John Paddock comes in at number two. After a ten-year pro career, Paddock became a coach of the Maine Mariners in 1983-84. He won three AHL championships, was an NHL assistant coach, NHL head coach, NHL general manager, and scout. He was inducted into the AHL Hall of Fame in 2010.
On August 6, 2014, the Pats came calling and hired Paddock as senior vice-president of hockey operations and head coach.
In 2014-15 Paddock made a statement trading four of the top Pats veterans to kickstart a rebuild. The team still went 37-24-5-6 and helped him win the WHL coach of the year. They swept the Broncos in round one before falling to the Wheat Kings in five games.
The rebuild was continued into the 2015-16 season and was still trending in the right direction. The Pats’ record changed just a bit to 36-28-3-5 but that did not deter them from making it to round two. The Pats beat the Hurricanes in five games before battling the Rebels to a seven-game loss.
In his third year as coach, the 2016-17 Pats set a franchise record with fifty-two wins. The team went 52-12-7-1 finishing first overall for the first time since 1973-74. He went on to win his second WHL coach of the year in just three seasons.
The Pats swept aside the Hitmen in four games. The Broncos posed a challenge in the second round going up 3-1. The Pats won the final three games to take the series in seven. The Hurricanes started strong taking two of the first three games. The Pats then went on a tear, winning the last three games and the series in six games. In the WHL final against Seattle, the Pats played the first two games at home and they split them, both games went to overtime. After winning the first game in Seattle, things came unraveled losing the next two. They then headed back home for game six. The Pats fell 4-3 in overtime.
Memorial Cup Host
With the Memorial Cup celebrating its 100th anniversary, the Pats were awarded the Championship tournament. The expectations were high heading into the 2017-18 season. Paddock did some wheeling and dealing to help get the team to the next level. The team won 40 games and finished third in the division. The Pats faced Swift Current in the first round. The Broncos eliminated the Memorial Cup host in seven-games in a series that was decided by just one goal.
After a month and a half off, the Pats opened the Memorial Cup with a 3-2 win over the Hamilton Bulldogs. The Pats faced the Acadie-Bathurst Titan in game two. In the freewheeling contest, the Titan outscored the Pats 8-6. The Pats enacted their revenge in game three, beating Swift Current 6-5 and ensuring their place in the semi-final. In the semi-final, the Pats faced Hamilton and pulled out a 4-2 win, cementing their place in the final. In the Memorial Cup final, the Pats had no answer for Acadie-Bathurst as the Titan smothered the Pats in a 3-0 Memorial Cup victory.
On June 28, 2018, Paddock gave up the head coaching role to assistant coach David Struch. He stayed on as the general manager and head of hockey operations.
Bob Strumm 1983-85
Topping the list is another Pats legend, Bob Strumm. On June 8, 1979, Strumm was named part-owner, governor, and general manager of the Pats. He helped build a Regina Pats powerhouse in which the team won 40 or more games in six straight seasons.
On June 29, 1983, Strumm stepped behind the bench full-time adding the coach to his duties. Led by Dale Derkatch, Taylor Hall, Doug Trapp, Lyndon Byers, and many others the Pats won 48 games. The 1984 playoffs started with a four-game sweep of the Calgary Wranglers. The Pats outscored Calgary 28-13 in the series. The WHL then threw in a round-robin with the Pats, Brandon, and Medicine Hat. Medicine Hat won the round and earned a place in the East Division final. The Pats and Wheat Kings played in a best-of-three East semi-final where the Pats won two-games-to-one. Regina then beat Medicine Hat in five games. This set up the WHL final between the Pats and the Kamloops Junior Oilers.
1984 WHL Final
The series opened up in Kamloops and the Oilers exploited the Pats winning both games in a convincing manner (7-4, 8-2). The series then moved to Regina for games three, four, and five. The Pats took advantage of home ice winning all three contests (7-3, 4-3, 4-1).
The Pats had a three-games-to-two series lead heading back to Kamloops for game six. On May 8, 1984, Taylor Hall scored at 2:55 of the third period to give the Pats a 3-2 lead. With 12 seconds left the unthinkable happened.
“On the goal that tied the game, I just shot toward the net. Ken Daneyko made the play by setting me up. He was in the corner, he took two swipes at the puck and it came back to him twice in a row. The puck finally came out to me. I had shot the puck like that on Jamie Reeve and he was making the saves. It was luck to go in.”
– Dean Evanson told Dave Senick of the Leader-Post on the game-tying goal.
Ryan Stewart capped off the comeback in overtime sending the series to game seven. Kamloops won the seventh game when they scored two unanswered goals in the third period, winning 4-2.
Strumm’s last season
Despite losing superstars Dale Derkatch & Taylor Hall, the 1984-85 Pats still won 43 games. It was the sixth consecutive season reaching the 40-win mark with Strumm in charge. The Pats faced the Blades in the first round and swept them 3-games-to-none, including a 17-3 trouncing. The Pats met their match in the East semi-final as they lost to the Tigers in five games.
On May 6. 1985, Strumm resigned (effective at the end of May).
“It’s difficult to describe how I feel tonight, if I died a little bit last year with 12 seconds remaining in that game, I’m dying a little bit more tonight.
I could talk about peaks and valleys, turning points and crossroads. Well I’m at mine and I’m going to take the road least trodden.” – Bob Strumm
This was the toughest “top five” so far. As it was being written, the order of this list changed at least three or four times. One thing I’ve realized is that whenever someone makes a list, there are never any wrong answers.