Hay back in coaching game? Is he filling vacancy with Winterhawks? . . . Source has him going to Portland

Don Hay, with more regular-season and playoff victories than any coach in WHL history, may be joining the Portland Winterhawks as an assistant coach.

A source familiar with the situation informed Taking Note late Friday night that Hay is being added to the Portland coaching staff.

The Winterhawks have an opening after announcing on Friday that Danny Flynn is leaving after one year as an assistant coach to work as an amateur scout in Eastern Canada for the NHL’s Columbus Blue Jackets. In the news release announcing Flynn’s departure, the Winterhawks said they would fill the position “within the coming days.”

DonHay
A source has told Taking Note that Don Hay will be joining the Portland Winterhawks as an assistant coach. (Photo: Gregg Drinnan)

Hay spent the past four seasons as the head coach of the Kamloops Blazers. Tom Gaglardi, the Blazers’ majority owner, announced Hay’s retirement at a news conference on May 10. Hay, who wasn’t present at the news conference, was reassigned as a hockey operations consultant in the team’s front office.

The next day, Hay, 64, met with the media outside the Blazers’ dressing room and it was most apparent that he wanted to continue coaching.

Later, on May 22, Hay told Don Taylor and Bob Marjanovich of TSN-Vancouver 1040 that he was prepared to look at “all different possibilities.”

“I do want to coach,” Hay said. “I still have the passion to coach . . . the passion is still there.

“I enjoy getting up every day and having the challenge of coaching and going to the rink. Coaching is more than just teaching hockey. It’s life skills and social skills for the young guys who are leaving home at an early age. It’s something that I’ve done for a long time that I feel I can still do a good job of.”

Hay finished the 2017-18 season with 750 regular-season victories, having broken the mark of 742 that had been held by Ken Hodge, who coached the original Edmonton Oil Kings (1973-76) and the Winterhawks, before retiring after the 1992-93 season.

Hay also is No. 1 in WHL playoff victories, with 108, seven more than Hodge.

Mike Johnston, the Winterhawks’ vice-president, general manager and head coach, became the 23rd head coach in WHL history to get to 300 victories. He finished the season at 315.

Hay was part of three Memorial Cup-winning teams in Kamloops. He was an assistant coach with the Blazers when the won in 1992, and was the head coach in 1994 and 1995.

Hay last worked as an assistant coach with the NHL’s Mighty Ducks of Anaheim in 1997-98. He later spent three seasons (2001-04) as the head coach of the AHL’s Utah Grizzlies, before working as head coach of the Vancouver Giants for 10 seasons. He left the Giants to join the Blazers for the 2014-15 season.

This summer, Hay was the head coach of the Canadian team that played at the U-18 IIHF World Championship in Russia. Canada lost 2-1 to Czech Republic in a quarterfinal game.

Johnston and Hay have been close friends since they worked together on the Canadian national junior team’s coaching staff as it won the 1995 World Junior Championship in Red Deer.

“He was a big help on that coaching staff,” Hay told me last season, “and we’ve been friends ever since.”

Now, it seems, they’ll be working together again.

The Winterhawks are scheduled to play twice in Kamloops this season, and they’ll get those games out of the way early, on Oct. 3 and 5. The Blazers are to play in Portland on Oct. 27 and 28.

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