There are a thousand colourful Roger Neilson stories - and players, owners, coaches, and his many friends share the best in Wayne Scanlan's "Roger's World." Roger Neilson was a hockey nomad, even by professional coaching standards. The Hall of Famer coached 1,000 NHL games and was head coach of seven teams, but his strongest links were to the ...
There are a thousand colourful Roger Neilson stories - and players, owners, coaches, and his many friends share the best in Wayne Scanlan's "Roger's World." Roger Neilson was a hockey nomad, even by professional coaching standards. The Hall of Famer coached 1,000 NHL games and was head coach of seven teams, but his strongest links were to the Toronto Maple Leafs, Vancouver Canucks, New York Rangers, Florida Panthers, Philadelphia Flyers, and, most recently, the Ottawa Senators. His hockey story was one of heartbreak. He came so close to a Stanley Cup and yet remained so far. He took the Canucks into the Cup finals, and his Panthers and Rangers both reached the finals shortly after he left. New York won the Cup the season after he was fired. He was a working man's coach and one of the few in the game to favour third- and fourth-line grinders. He could relate to their work ethic. Yet he also influenced such stars as Darryl Sittler, Eric Lindros, Borje Salming, Lanny McDonald, Mike Gartner, Tiger Williams, and Bob Gainey. Neilson was a bundle of contradictions. Nicknamed Captain Video for his many cutting-edge technological innovations, he routinely got lost in parking lots and arenas and once tried to change a TV channel with his calculator. Hehad a deep love of hockey, but he seemed to undo it at each turn, exploiting loopholes in the rules at every opportunity. He might have angered hockey people if they weren't too busy laughing at his antics and marvelling at his boundless energy. On the job, he was maniacally driven, obsessed with order, detail, analysis, and a defensive mindset that is the flavour - some say the scourge - of today's NHL. Away from the rink, Neilson was a barefoot free spirit. He lived what one of his assistant coaches called a "Pollyanna" existence. Like the Dylan lyric, he stayed forever young - a bizarre, fascinating man of enormous vitality and a deep religious faith. A man who endeared himself to thousands inside the game of hockey and as many outside of it, he was, in the words of the "New York Times," "the NHL's favourite bachelor uncle."
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