phil maloney, 1927—2020

Coastal Coach: “He’s fiery type of man behind the bench,” the back of Phil Maloney’s 1974 hockey card confided, along with the news that he was “hopeful of vast improvement” for the Vancouver Canucks he was steering as both coach and GM. Born on a Thursday in Ottawa in 1927, Maloney died yesterday at the age of 92. He was a centreman when he played, skating in the NHL for Boston, Toronto, and Chicago, before finishing his career in Vancouver with the WHL Canucks. He started with the NHL Canucks as a scout in 1970, and served as an assistant coach, too, before the taking charge of the team in ’73. His best year behind the bench was 1974-75, when he steered the Canucks to the top of the Smythe Division and the team’s first appearance in the playoffs, where they duly fell to the Montreal Canadiens. In the winter of 1976, the GM in him fired the coach, replacing himself with Orland Kurtenbach mid-season.

hired to be fired

George Karn played some hockey in his day, for a scattering of Minnesota minor-league teams in the 1950s, Jerseys and Millers and Saints. As a commercial cartoonist, he’s claimed by history for having created what the Vintage Minnesota Hockey Hall of Fame (of which he’s an honoured member) calls cereal icons: the Trix rabbit, the Lucky Charms leprechaun, and Count Chocula. When the Minnesota North Stars joined the NHL in 1967, the team looked to Karn to design both the starred N logo they proudly wore and the uniforms it adorned. In 1969, he added My Very Own Hockey Colouring Book to his oeuvre. Handed out for free to prospective Minnesota ticket-buyers, the 30-page pamphlet goes for the broad and occasionally bawdy laughs and maybe it got some of those, in 1969.

Featured here — no special reason, any resemblance to actual situations, living or dead, or real events that might or might not have unfolded this afternoon, is purely coincidental — Karn’s take on the changeable fortunes of hockey coaches.

“If you do not understand the game of ice hockey,” Karn wrote on the title page, “you will not understand this book. If you do understand the game of ice hockey, you will not understand this book. If you do understand this book … you need help.”