Dick Irvin (1892-1957) was one of the first — and still stands as one of the best — coaches in NHL history. In 27 seasons as a head coach, Irvin won four Stanley Cups, made it to the Stanley Cup Final another 12 times, and won a total of 691 games.
Born in Hamilton, Ontario, and raised in Winnipeg, James Dickinson Irvin II started playing hockey as a youngster, getting to games not in the family minivan but via horse and sleigh. He started playing professional hockey in 1916, but his career was interrupted a year later by World War I. Irvin served in France until the war ended in 1918.
After World War I, Irvin continued to excel as a player, mostly as a center for the Regina Victorias of the SSHL (Saskatchewan Senior Hockey League), the Regina Capitals of the WCHL (Western Canada Hockey League), and finally, from 1926-27 to 1928-29, for the Chicago Black Hawks of the NHL. Irvin’s playing career ended due to a skull fracture; he was a frequent all-star and a solid scorer with a wicked slap shot years ahead of its time.
Dick Irvin — Coaching Achievements
- Chicago Black Hawks. Irvin coached Chicago for two seasons, part of 1928-29 and all of 1929-30. In the latter season, he took the Black Hawks to the Stanley Cup Final, where they lost to the Canadiens 3-2.
- Toronto Maple Leafs. Irvin was in Toronto for the next nine seasons, winning the Stanley Cup in his first season (1931-32; Art Duncan and Conn Smythe coached the first six games of that season). The Leafs made the Stanley Cup Final six more times under his leadership.
- Montreal Canadiens. Irvin coached the Canadiens for 15 seasons, from 1940-41 to 1954-55, winning three Stanley Cups.
- Chicago Blackhawks. Irvin returned to Chicago for one season (1955-56), but was forced to retire due to bone cancer, to which he succumbed a year later.
Irvin’s coaching achievements include:
- 692 regular-season wins, placing him solidly in the NHL top 10.
- 100 playoff wins, putting him in the top five.
- Four Stanley Cup championships
- 12 losses in the Stanley Cup Final, which is actually a much more impressive accomplishment than it may sound.
- 1449 regular-season games coached — top 10.
- 190 playoff games coached — top five.
- Career regular-season record of 692-527-230 (.557).
- Career playoff record of 100-88-2 (.532).
- Irvin coached the NHL First All-Star Team three times (1944, 1945 and 1946).
Dick Irvin — Trivia
- Dick Irvin is mainly remembered for his coaching achievements, but he was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame as a player in 1958.
- Irvin took over a Montreal franchise that was in one of its rare down periods, and turned around their fortunes — although the emergence of Maurice Richard also had a lot to do with it!
- Irvin’s 692 career coaching wins stood as the NHL record until the 1980s — all the more impressive considering the shorter regular seasons in Irvin’s time.
- Irvin’s son, Dick Irvin Jr., is an NHL broadcasting legend, noted author and member of the Canadian Association of Broadcasters Hall of Fame.
- Irvin displayed an excellent coaching temperament as a player, where he was known for keeping his cool on the ice as well as having a hot slap shot.
- In addition to Richard, Irvin developed many other superb NHL players, including Jean Beliveau, Bernie Geoffrion, Charlie Conacher and Red Horner.
- Irvin was inducted into the Manitoba Sports Hall of Fame and Museum in 1983. He is also an Honoured Member of the Manitoba Hockey Hall of Fame.
(Image Credit — Manitoba Hockey Hall of Fame)