Person of Interest: Flyers coach Dave Hakstol

Elliotte Friedman joins George Stroumboulopoulos to talk about the Philadelphia Flyers pulling out a surprise hire in head coach Dave Hakstol.

When the Philadelphia Flyers named Dave Hakstol the 19th coach in team history Monday, it took the hockey world by surprise.

Hakstol has spent the last 15 years at the University of North Dakota and is now tasked with getting the Flyers back into the playoffs after a disappointing 2014-15 season.

Here’s what you need to know about Dave Hakstol.

Age: 46
Born: Drayton Valley, Alta.
UND head coaching record: 289-143-43

He has no NHL experience, but plenty of success…

While he never won a national championship, Hakstol was no stranger to winning during his time as head coach at UND. He finished his career with a .654 win percentage, advanced to the Frozen Four seven times, qualified for the playoffs in each of his 11 seasons as bench boss and was an eight-time finalist for the Spencer Penrose Award as top coach in NCAA Division 1 men’s hockey.

His hiring was of the rare variety…

Hakstol became the first head coach to go directly from the NCAA to the NHL since 1982 when “Badger Bob” Johnson joined the Calgary Flames after a lengthy stint at Wisconsin. As Kevin Allen of USA Today points out, Herb Brooks also did it in 1987 when he went from St. Cloud State to the Minnesota North Stars, but Brooks had previously coached in the NHL, so it’s slightly different.

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He has moulded some quality hockey players…

As a coach at UND, Hakstol has helped develop a number of skaters who went on to become NHL stars. Here is a sample of a few of the forwards he coached and influenced over the years: Jonathan Toews, Zach Parise, T.J. Oshie, Travis Zajac, Drew Stafford, and Brock Nelson.

He worked his way up the ranks…

During his playing days Hakstol, a defenceman, spent three seasons at UND — two as captain — before playing five years in the IHL split between the Indianapolis Ice and Minnesota Moose before transitioning into coaching in 1996. His first coaching gig came with the Sioux City Musketeers in the USHL. After going 8-43-2 in his first year, he went 96-63-11 over the next three seasons before returning to UND as an assistant coach in 2000. He took over as head coach of the program in 2004.

He is well respected…

While unknown to most mainstream hockey fans, Hakstol is revered in the hockey community and his hiring was met with praise.

He previously garnered some interest from NHL teams…

As Elliotte Friedman recently reported in his 30 Thoughts column, current Flames GM Brad Treliving approached Hakstol eight years ago – when Treliving was an assistant GM with the Coyotes — about an AHL job in the Coyotes organization, but Hakstol was happy at UND so he declined.

He’s a players’ coach who knows how to run a practice…

“I think it’s hard to be an NHL player in this day and age. There are a lot of stresses and pressures along with trying to be a good player,” Hakstol told reporters at his introductory press conference. “There are a lot of great people in the game and on the roster here. I am going to communicate well with them, I am going to get to know them and they are going to get to know me as well. We have great people and we are going to go to work together.”

As you can see from the clip below, Hakstol is an excellent communicator and commands respect from his players. He’s tough when he needs to be without being overbearing and encouraging without coddling his roster.

He coached Flyers GM Ron Hextall’s son…

Hakstol had met Ron Hextall prior to negotiations because Ron’s son Brett Hextall played under Hakstol for three seasons after being drafted in the sixth round by the Coyotes in 2008.

“The biggest thing for my dad initially was that [Hakstol] was an introspective guy and thought a lot,” Brett Hextall told “My dad uses the word methodical. He’s really thorough. Just the fact that he and my dad saw eye-to-eye on a lot of things, the way they think about issues the same way, the same high level of accountability, I think they felt comfortable with each other for the job…We had some long conversations about him.”

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He’s an Alberta farm boy who thrives on hard work and teamwork…

“He doesn’t just want cookie-cutter stuff. He wants to delve into things. He doesn’t want to keep things a certain way just because that’s the way they’ve always been. He looks into a lot of different things to figure out ways to improve our team,” Hakstol’s former teammate and assistant coach at UND Dane Jackson told the Grand Forks Herald in 2014 in a detailed feature that delved into Hakstol’s background.

He has several parody Twitter accounts dedicated to him…

Hakstol is renowned for his intensity and a certain steely look he can give people. This has resulted in a number of parody Twitter accounts.

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