losing the room

Rudy Pilous was the winningmost coach the Chicago Black Hawks had ever had in 1963, not to mention he’d steered the team to Stanley Cup victory two years earlier. But as the season ended that year, the team not only fell out of first place, but followed up in the playoffs by losing to Detroit. A month later, when the coach’s hometown paper in St. Catharines, Ontario, declared that Pilous was going to be fired within two days, he was calm. “If it is true, then all I can say is that coaches have been fired since the first time a dollar bill got stuck to a puck.”

Had he lost the room? Was that the trouble? It sounds like something that might afflict an absent-minded architect, but no, it’s not. It’s what happens to a hockey coach just before he no longer had the job he had the night before. If you look it up in The Complete Hockey Dictionary (2007) … lose —the battle, — a draw, — the handle … okay, so it’s not in hockey’s dictionary. Should be. To lose the room is to get to a point where players once heeded your counsel and responded to your exhortations (i.e. in the dressing the room), now they’re jaded and hard of hearing, and don’t. As then-New York Islanders general manager Mike Milbury said when he’d waxed* Peter Laviolette in 2003: “The line of communication between players and coach snapped.” Continue reading