Bob Hartley was linked professionally with the Montreal Canadiens and Calgary Flames head coaching vacancies. The former offered the chance to take over a team pointed in the right direction; the latter offered some considerable challenges as star players grow older.
But Montreal didn't have Jay Feaster. And Hartley and Feaster go waaay back.
Here's the official release on Bob Hartley being hired by the Calgary Flames as their new head coach, replacing the departed Brent Sutter. The exclamation point at the start is not a typo:
"Bob Hartley is a winner! Bob has won at every level he has coached, from the QMJHL to the AHL to the NHL to Switzerland, and we are confident he is going to continue his winning ways in Calgary," said Flames General Manager Jay Feaster. "He is a tireless worker, an outstanding motivator, a great bench boss and game strategist; and a teacher at heart. Moreover, he is a great person as well. We look forward to Bob and his wife Micheline joining the Flames family, and to Bob taking our hockey club to the next level."
Hartley coached the Colorado Avalanche for five seasons and won the 2001 Stanley Cup. He also coached the Atlanta Thrashers for parts of five seasons. He led the Hershey Bears to the 1997 Calder Cup and won the Swiss League title this year with Zurich.
Please recall that Hartley won the Calder Cup with the 1997 Hershey Bears under team president Jay Feaster. He's also the godfather of Feaster's youngest son, Ryan.
"First I would like to thank Jay Feaster and the Calgary Flames for having the confidence to provide me with the opportunity to coach again in the NHL," said Hartley. "I would also like to express my appreciation to the ZSC Lions for the tremendous experience of coaching and living in Switzerland; and also complying with my wishes to depart their organization for the Calgary Flames. It's great to return to the League in a city, a community and an organization that has such an outstanding reputation and passion for hockey and success. I look forward to assuming my position and starting the preparation process for the 2012-13 season."
Is he the right coach for the Flames? Former NHLer Jeff Tambellini, who won a title with Hartley in Zurich this season, gave an endorsement to the Calgary Herald:
"I've never had a coach who has wanted to win so bad," said Tambellini, who's back in Vancouver for a few months before heading back to Europe in early August.
"He'll do anything to win. That's where you hear about how he pushes guys and makes them uncomfortable, but he just wants to win so bad that he'll push as many buttons as it takes. It's hard but I can respect that. You know where you stand with him. He has a relationship with each of his players and he cares about each person. He works with the young guys, but he also challenges them to be better."
What say you on Bob Hartley: Good guy, wrong gig? Right gig, wrong guy? Or perfect fit?