Blazers head coach Don Hay on verge of WHL history after securing win No. 742

Robert Murray


Don Hay is on the verge of knocking down a 25-year-old Western Hockey League record.

With a 5-2 victory over the Portland Winterhawks Friday night at the Sandman Centre, the head coach of the Kamloops Blazers now has 742 career WHL coaching victories to his credit, moving into a tie with Ken Hodge, former head coach of the Edmonton Oil Kings and Portland Winterhawks, atop the WHL record book.

Hay, a 63-year-old product of Kamloops, will get his first opportunity to become the sole shareholder of the WHL record for coaching wins on Saturday night (7 p.m. PT), as the Winterhawks return to the Sandman Centre ice for a re-engagement with his Blazers.

Hodge has stood as the WHL’s winningest coach since his final campaign as a WHL bench boss – the 1992-93 season, in which he guided the Winterhawks to a record of 45-24-3. He established the longstanding record over the course of 22 WHL seasons and 1,411 games.

Hay is in his 19th season as a WHL head coach, including his seventh campaign with the Blazers. Friday night marked the 1,340th game of his WHL coaching career.

A spirited effort from the Blazers ensured Kamloops of two points against the high-flying Winterhawks, who are visiting the Sandman Centre and B.C. Interior for consecutive games this weekend.

Defending a 3-1 lead heading into the final 20 minutes of regulation, the Blazers suddenly found themselves in a tight contest after Winterhawks forward Jake Gricius potted his 10th goal of the campaign to make it a 3-2 game only 4:12 into the third period.

Though they bent, the Blazers did not break as Quinn Benjafield scored his 16th goal of the season to restore the two-goal cushion with 5:40 to go before Jermaine Loewen deposited his second goal of the night and 23rd marker of the campaign into an empty net, securing win No. 742 for Hay.

Blazers goaltender Dylan Ferguson made 30 saves to backstop his club, while Connor Zary and Justin Sigrist also contributed on offense for Kamloops.

As the buzzer sounded, an energetic Kamloops crowd rose to its feet with a roar in honour of Hay, the pride and joy of their city.

Hay’s WHL coaching career began with his hometown club, taking over as head coach prior to the 1992-93 season after previously serving six seasons as an assistant coach (1986-87 to 1991-92).

During his first stint with the Blazers, Hay was a part of three Memorial Cup Championships, including one as an assistant coach (1992) and two as head coach (1994, 1995). In each of those seasons, the Blazers were also crowned WHL Champions.

After spending time in the professional ranks, Hay enjoyed brief success over two seasons with the Tri-City Americans, being named WHL Executive of the Year and WHL Coach of the Year during the 1998-99 campaign. From there, he took another tour through both the NHL and AHL, eventually returning to take the reins behind the bench of the Vancouver Giants.

Under Hay’s direction, the Vancouver Giants made back-to-back appearances in the WHL Championship (2006 and 2007), lifting the WHL Championship trophy with a 4-0 sweep of the Moose Jaw Warriors in 2006. He was also presented with the Dunc McCallum Memorial Trophy as WHL Coach of the Year during the 2008-09 WHL season, leading the Giants to a record of 57-10-2-3.

Following the conclusion of the 2013-14 WHL season, Hay left the Giants organization to return to his hometown Blazers for the 2014-15 WHL campaign. During the 2016-17 WHL season, he became only the second coach in WHL history to reach the 700-win plateau, eventually finishing the year with 720 wins to his credit.

Now, midway through the 2017-18 WHL season, Hay has collected another 22 victories, pulling into a tie with Hodge as the WHL’s all-time winningest coach.

Over 19 WHL seasons, Hay has hung banners everywhere he has been, including five B.C. Division titles (2005-06, 2006-07, 2007-08, 2008-09, 2009-10), two West Division crowns (1993-94, 1994-95), and two WHL Regular Season titles (1993-94, 1994-95).

Outside the WHL, Hay has experienced tremendous success on the international stage, having coached Canada to gold medal performances at the 1995 IIHF World Junior Championship and 2013 IIHF U-18 World Championship. His travels to the professional ranks, included four seasons (1995-96 to 1997-98, 2000-01) in the National Hockey League between the Calgary Flames, Phoenix Coyotes and Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, as well as three seasons (2001-02 to 2003-04) in the American Hockey League with the Utah Grizzlies.

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