Hitchcock was the Flyers’ head coach from 2002-2006, finishing with a winning percentage (61.4%) that resembled a 131-73-28-22 record. He was an assistant coach from 1990-1993 during his first stint in Philadelphia, his first NHL coaching job after heading the Kamloops Blazers in the WHL from 1984-1990.
Before his first NHL head coaching role, Hitchcock became the bench boss for the Kalamazoo Wings (renamed Michigan K-Wings) in the IHL. He replaced Bob Gainey, then the head coach of the Dallas Stars, during the 1995-1996 season.
From 1995-2002, Hitchcock coached the Stars. He led them to two consecutive Presidents’ Trophies from 1997-1999, including the Stanley Cup, where the Buffalo Sabres were defeated in six games.
Returning to Philadelphia for the 2002-2003 season, Hitchcock led the Flyers to three consecutive 40+ win seasons, including the Eastern Conference Finals in 2004. The Flyers were defeated in seven games by the Tampa Bay Lightning, led by the current bench boss on Broad Street, John Tortorella.
Both coaches got into a few heated exchanges during that 2004 Eastern Conference Finals series. Hitchcock became frustrated at the Lightning players for slashing in the back of the legs during Game 2. He exchanged words with the opposition, including Tortorella, from the bench.
“If you’re going to hit people, hit them from the front or hit them from the side. There is one thing that upsets the bench and the coaches. It’s happened two or three times against this team [Flyers] and it’s very, very upsetting.”Ken Hitchcock; 5/13/2004
Tortorella didn’t take kindly to Hitchcock.
“When it comes to a coach from an opposing player, it’s disrespectful and it’s wrong. It’s gutless. That’s gotta’ stop. Park your ego. Shove it in your pocket; it’s about the two teams. I’m not in the battle, he isn’t in the battle. Shut your yap.”John Tortorella; 5/12/2004
After elimination at the hands of the to-be Stanley Cup champions, Hitchcock had another successful 45-win season in 2005-2006 after the NHL Lockout. The Buffalo Sabres eliminated the Flyers in the 2006 Eastern Conference Quarterfinals, then Hitchcock would be fired at the beginning of 2006-2007, replaced by John Stevens.
After his tenure with the Flyers, Hitchcock coached the Columbus Blue Jackets, St. Louis Blues, the Stars, and the Edmonton Oilers. He retired after the 2018-2019 season with 849 wins to his credit, the fourth-most in NHL history.
Overall, Hitchcock was the head coach of an NHL team for 1,598 games, finishing with a record of 849-534-88-127, a winning percentage (53.1%). In addition to those statistics, the aforementioned Stanley Cup championship and Jack Adams Award winner in 2012 with the Blues. Hitchcock never played in the NHL but built a legendary coaching resume while earning a spot in the Hockey Hall of Fame.
(Photo Credit/Alex McIntyre)