Joel Quenneville was the 37th head coach of the Blackhawks, but Tuesday the team announced it would be moving on to a 38th.
Quenneville led Chicago to Stanley Cup championships in 2010, 2013 and 2015. But after a 6-6-3 start in his 11th season with the franchise, he was let go and replaced by Jeremy Colliton.
Before accepting the job, Colliton was in his second season as head coach of the Rockford IceHogs in the American Hockey League. And at 33 years old, he is now the youngest coach in NHL history. The team’s decision to fire Quenneville — who has won the second-most games in NHL and Blackhawks history — and get a fresh start under Colliton brought out mixed emotions from Region fans.
Here are their some of their reactions:
30 years of tickets
Nick Hlavaty was born and raised in East Chicago. He watched his first Blackhawks game on television in 1957 and has been a loyal fan ever since. He attended his first game in 1964, and was a season ticket holder with his brother from 1967 to 1997. And although he moved to Indianapolis 21 years ago, Hlavaty still keeps a close eye on his favorite franchise and believes Chicago made the right choice to cut ties with Quenneville.
“He seemed at first to be somebody who had a finger on the pulse,” Hlavaty said. “He had a very good system of puck control, and he had the players to make that work. And he did make it work. I mean three cups and over 750 career wins, how can you argue you with that? But you have to see what’s going on now.”
According to Hlavaty, Quennenville was too stubborn. And his inability to adapt his coaching style to fit new players eventually hindered the team’s growth. He said he doesn’t have anything against Quennenville and is confident he will have another opportunity to coach again soon but hopes Colliton can help lead the Blackhawks into the future.
“Colliton has been the coach of many of the players now when they were down in Rockford,” Hlavaty said. “And they all liked him and respected him. And given that and his fresh approach, I think it’ll be a good thing and maybe even a long-lasting thing for the 'Hawks too. “
Sounding the horn
Charles Koop grew up in Calumet City, Illinois, and became a Blackhawks fan when he was a kid because of his uncle and cousins. He attended his first hockey game in 1973, cheering on Chicago in a home match-up against Toronto. And even after moving to Valparaiso as an adult, his heart still remains with his hometown team. Koop said he was pleased with Chicago’s plan to move on without Quenneville, but also took a moment to thank the former head coach for turning the team into a dynasty.
“The first cup (in 2010) was definitely the highlight for me, after all of them years,” Koop said. “That team was stacked. And he was the right guy at the right time to push the right buttons. … I was at my buddy’s house in his garage watching it on TV. I got a big giant train horn and we hooked it up to his compressor and we were blowing off the train horn and celebrating at the end of the driveway. It was a blast.”
Koop said hockey has been a part of his life for 45 years, but that was one of the best moments he’s ever had because of the game. He thanked Quenneville for many more unforgettable memories during his tenure but thinks Colliton will be a better fit going forward and isn’t concerned about his youth. Koop anticipates the usual growing pains that all new coaches encounter but said Colliton will have a great support system around him.
“He’s supposed to be a very good coach,” Koop said. “And their assistant coach that they named with him, (Barry) Smith, he’s been with Scotty Bowman (the Blackhawks’ Senior Advisor of Hockey Operations), so it’s not like it’s just Colliton. They do have some experience.”
Quenneville not to blame
But it’s clear that not all fans were as understanding as Hlavaty and Koop. Many aren’t ready to turn the page on a future Hall of Fame coach and believe Blackhawks general manager Stan Bowman should’ve been the one dismissed.
“I think Coach Q and Stan have equal blame, but the coach will always go first , so let’s see how long a leash Stan has to produce change," Pete Mcnamara said in an email to the Times. "I do feel with all the props BlackHawks franchise gets letting Q go this way after winning 3 cups is weak!!"
“They fired the wrong guy! Stan Bowman sat on his hands in the off season!! And he was protected by his dads shirt tail!!! Absolute disgrace to Coach Q,” Jeff Crafton said in a Facebook comment.
Coach Q will have a job by Christmas. #fireStan,” Joshua Guidarelli said in an email to The Times.
End of an era
But to sum things up, one Region fan didn’t go all in for or against Quenneville’s departure. Her disappoint was kept simple and should resonate with all Blackhawks fans who had the luxury of enjoying three Stanley Cup titles in six years.
“So sad to hear,” Nichole Renae Kleckner said in a Facebook comment. “I will miss Joel and that era of Blackhawks hockey.”