Thursday, September 5, 2013

Brian Conacher: Head Coach of the Mohawk Valley Comets

brian conacher toronto maple leafs rookie hockey card
Son of National Hockey League great Lionel Conacher, Brian Conacher played his share of NHL hockey before he became a head coach in the North American Hockey League. Conacher coached the Mohawk Valley Comets for the 1973-74 and 1974-75 seasons, along with 12 games at the start of 1975-76. He wasn’t given much to work with and the Comets were not very successful.

Brian Conacher – Head Coach

In Conacher’s first year as head coach of the Mohawk Valley Comets, the team placed last in the seven team NAHL with 42 points over 74 games. The Comets finished 19 points behind the sixth place Binghamton Dusters and 70 points behind the first place Syracuse Blazers.

1974-75 saw a great improvement in the Comets. The team totalled 25 more points than the previous season with 67 over 74 games. Mohawk Valley finished sixth out of eight teams and got their first taste of the Lockhart Cup post season. However, the Comets fell in the opening round to the Binghamton Dusters, another team much improved over the previous season.

Mohawk Valley’s success in 1974-75 was largely due to the goaltending duo of Michel Dion and Jim Park, both in their first year with the club. Dion went on to play several years in the WHA and NHL while Park played three years in the WHA. Jim won the Terry Sawchuk Trophy in 1979-80 as the goaltender on the team in the Central Hockey League with the least goals against.

Twelve games into the 1975-76 season, Conacher was replaced by Ted McCaskill. During those 12 games, Brian returned to ice for three, scoring two goals and assisting on another. McCaskill played four games in the NHL with the Minnesota North Stars in 1967-68 and was a regular in the World Hockey Association in 1972-73 and 1973-74 with the Los Angeles Sharks. In 1974-75, he played 40 games in the NAHL with the Binghamton Dusters, his final games as a pro hockey player.

The team didn’t fare much better under McCaskill, placing third of five teams in the East Division with 64 points in 74 games. The Comets then fell in the opening round of the playoffs to the Syracuse Blazers.

Brian Conacher – Pro Hockey Player

Brian Conacher played a total of 155 regular season games in the National Hockey League between 1965-66 and 1971-72 with the Toronto Maple Leafs and Detroit Red Wings. He also appeared in 12 playoff games, all during the 1966-67 season when the Maple Leafs captured the Stanley Cup championship.

Brian played one last year of pro hockey in 1972-73 before ending up behind the Mohawk Valley bench. He played for the Ottawa Nationals in the inaugural season of the WHA. Over his career, he also played in the AHL and CHL. Conacher played for Canada at the 1964 Winter Olympics and the 1965 World Hockey Championships. He was a Calder Cup champion in the American Hockey League with the Rochester Americans in 1965-66.

Brian Conacher – Author

In 2007, Conacher published a book titled As the Puck Turns: A Personal Journey Through the World of Hockey. The book chronicled his diverse life in hockey and peeked inside one of the sport’s royal families.



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