BRAMPTON, Ont. – The Brampton Battalion’s Stan Butler joined a select group of Ontario Hockey League coaches Thursday night.
Butler became the fourth OHL coach to be credited with reaching the 1,000-game mark as the Battalion defeated the Oshawa Generals 3-1. The victory moved Butler’s career won-lost-tied record in the league to 461-474-65, including a 391-425-52 mark as the only coach in Battalion history.
Butler, who began his OHL coaching career with Oshawa in 1994-95, joins Brian Kilrea, who coached 2,156 games with the Ottawa 67’s, the late Bert Templeton, behind the bench for 1,735 games with five clubs, and Larry Mavety who coached 1,514 games with the Belleville Bulls and Kingston Frontenacs.
In a pregame ceremony, OHL commissioner David Branch presented Butler with an OHL Milestone Award, while former referee Bill Prisniak presented him with a framed memento containing the gamesheet from Butler’s first game, with space provided for the paperwork from the 1,000th.
“It was going to be a memorable game no matter what the score was,” said Butler, a 55-year-old native of East York, now part of Toronto, in his 15th season coaching in the OHL. “But to win it made it an even neater feeling. It’s just an honour to be in this league as long as I have. It’s a great league to work in.”
Prisniak was the referee in Butler’s first game with Oshawa, a 6-0 road loss to the Ottawa 67’s on Sept. 23, 1994.
“I don’t remember that game, but I did a lot of games with Stan behind the bench,” said Prisniak, who retired in 2002 after a 28-year career as an official. “Stan was very talkative in those days, and it wasn’t always negative. He would offer a lot of things to help the officials out.”
Oshawa head coach Chris DePiero, 42, has been behind the bench for 203 games over four seasons.
“Stan has had a long and successful career, both in the OHL and internationally,” noted DePiero. “He’s been a mentor for me and a friend. He’s a great sounding board, and it’s great to be able to coach against him in this game. He gives great little pieces of advice.”
Branch knew Butler long before he arrived in the OHL after much success as coach of the junior A Wexford Raiders.
“We’ve known each other a long time,” said Branch. “We grew up in the same neighbourhood and have a lot of mutual friends. I always recall when Stan was arguably the most successful junior A coach in the Toronto area, and I always asked our general managers why he wasn’t in our league if he was that good. Wayne Daniels of the Generals brought him in, and I thought that was a huge step for the franchise and our league. It’s great when you see what he has done with the Battalion, developing players and people.”
Branch praised the longevity of Butler, who’s second among active coaches in wins to Belleville’s George Burnett.
“The hockey industry can be emotional and volatile for coaches. Coaches always have opportunities to move into different leagues, but Stan has always had such a passion for young players and wanting to help them grow and develop. He has worked with (owner) Scott Abbott to develop the program here and, even if the team wasn’t always as successful on the ice as everyone would want, I think Scott knew Stan was doing everything he could to help the players become better, on and off the ice.”
Branch also lauded Butler’s commitment to the OHL.
“Brian Kilrea is a league guy. He looks at our game and issues involving our league and how to do what’s best for the OHL. And Stan is the same way. He is one of the key people in our league in terms of the committees he sits on. We are always challenging ourselves to do better, and Stan has been a major contributor to the OHL behind the scenes.”
(Nathan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)