Lessons from the past

Ottawa Business Journal - HR Update - - Street Smarts -

From be­hind the bench of the Ot­tawa 67’s, Brian Kil­rea coached his way to more than a dozen divi­sion ti­tles and a pair of Me­mo­rial Cup cham­pi­onships. Over the course of more than four decades, the Hockey Hall of Fame in­ductee – who car­ries the moniker “Killer” – coached hun­dreds of young play­ers, in­clud­ing fu­ture NHL stars Doug Wil­son and Jim Fox.

Along the way, Mr. Kil­rea de­vel­oped some of the same skills com­mon to many suc­cess­ful hu­man re­sources pro­fes­sion­als, such as se­lect­ing tal­ent, man­ag­ing new­com­ers to the team and staying con­nected with prospects.

Now re­tired from coach­ing, but still gen­eral man­ager of the 67’s, Mr. Kil­rea re­flected on some of the HR lessons he’s learned.


“When we scout them or bring them in, you’re look­ing for kids that want to work and want to get bet­ter, but they have to have some tal­ent. It is very dif­fi­cult com­ing in. They work all sum­mer to get in shape and then they come down for a train­ing camp that con­sists of four days. I al­ways tell the kids the same thing: you’ve got four days to make the team, and I have four days to pick a team.”


“Some­times it is tough on them be­cause they come in and were stars when they were drafted and they start on the fourth line where they don’t get as much ice time or play on the power play. It is dif­fi­cult for them, but you just have to let them know that it is a tougher league.”


“Some (op­pos­ing) coaches will (no­tice) when you put these young kids out on the ice. All of a sud­den, they’ll make a quick change and put their (older play­ers out) against them and some­times you have to line jug­gle, and that means (your younger play­ers) don’t play as much. But they learn and ad­just and, in the sec­ond half of the year, they can con­trib­ute.”


“The lit­tle guy that comes in and may be 155 or 160 pounds can get in shape in a day, whereas the big guys, some­times it takes a lit­tle bit longer for them to get go­ing and ad­just. You al­ways have to keep it in the back of your mind that you need to be a lit­tle more pa­tient with some of the big­ger kids that may take a bit more time.”


“I never look back (and ques­tion my choices). If you make a de­ci­sion, you stick by it and go with it. When you send a player back, it doesn’t mean he can’t be brought back up. Some­one could go back home and ex­cel, and we have the op­tion of bring­ing him back to play with us at Christ­mas or when they get elim­i­nated at the end of the year. Some­times it is in their best in­ter­est to go back some­where where they are go­ing to play a lot, rather than play with us.”


“(When it comes to fix­ing bad habits) on the ice, you need to make sure they work hard. If they are try­ing to take short­cuts, you need to make sure they re­al­ize that hard work beats the short­cut. When we see them dog­ging a lit­tle bit, we em­pha­size that you have to work hard.”


“You have to un­der­stand that when they come here, they all want to make the team. It is a dis­ap­point­ment when they go back, but they are not out of sight. When they go back, you want to make sure they know that you are still go­ing to fol­low them and take an in­ter­est in them. You want to see them play; let them know you are there and talk to them. Just let them know you are there to see the hard work they are do­ing.”


Brian Kil­rea, seen here coach­ing in the ’70s, says it’s im­por­tant to stay in touch with prospects that aren’t im­me­di­ately brought on board.

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