I couldn’t believe it. It made no sense whatsoever. I was 12, and the hockey history books I was inhaling indicated coaches lasted a long time. Punch Imlach, Sid Abel, Toe Blake, Billy Reay… They’d all been with one team for what felt like forever. Stability behind the bench was seen as a good thing. Especially when they won.
Then the Montreal Canadiens, fresh off their 17th Stanley Cup in 1971, fired coach Al MacNeil (#19*) because he wasn’t French I was told. That was another early indication to me that adults had their issues with each other. Later the engraver left Al’s first name off the Cup. I couldn’t believe it.