How Canucks video coach Dylan Crawford broke into hockey in his own way

(Photo Courtesy Dylan Crawford)

VANCOUVER — Determined to make a name for himself in hockey, Dylan Crawford used an alias.

The son of Marc Crawford, who coached the Canucks for seven years at the start of the century when Dylan was a boy and Vancouver became home, the younger Crawford didn’t tell anyone in his hockey-mad family when he applied for his first professional coaching job.

He also didn’t tell his prospective employers at the Binghampton Senators who he was when he applied for a video coaching position in 2016.

“I still used my first name, but I used my mother's maiden name, Campeau,” Dylan said this week, a few days after the Canucks named him their new video coach. “I know, not very clever. I wish it was something more exciting.

“I applied under a different name but with the same qualifications. At the end, the only person knew who I was was the general manager at the time, Randy Lee. But the coaching staff didn't know. The big thing for me was to just make it on my own merit. Marc instilled that in me and my sister that you never get anything on the name, you make it your own way. I would guarantee he probably never really wanted me to get into this business because he knows how cutthroat it is and how hard it is to make a name when you have something that's already attached to it.”

Marc Crawford, recently fired as an assistant coach in Chicago amid the Blackhawks’ regime change, told Sportsnet he does worry about his son working in such a volatile industry but believes Dylan’s ability and “services” work as a video coach, out of the spotlight, will help him build a long career.

After getting fired by the Canucks in 2006, eight years after he was dismissed by the Colorado Avalanche despite bringing Denver its original Stanley Cup, the elder Crawford coached two seasons in Los Angeles, then two in Dallas before re-setting his career with a four-year stint in the Swiss League, where he coached Auston Matthews in 2015-16.

Crawford was then named an associate coach with the Ottawa Senators, which is why Dylan felt the need to go under cover when he approached their minor-league team in Binghampton, N.Y., about a video coach position that summer.

When he finally told his dad what was happening, he said Marc’s reaction was: “’You're going to be the hardest-working person there.' That's kind of how we've always been taught. When I was like 12 years old, Marc sent me to my cousin's farm for a week or two to do those jobs. And then when I was 15 or 16, I had a job washing dishes at a restaurant in North Vancouver because there was no way that I was sitting around.”

Dylan’s dish-washing job was at The Soup Meister in Lonsdale Quay.

“I had a great boss,” he said. “I won’t tell you his nickname but if you watched Seinfeld, you can probably guess.”

Crawford’s hard work is paying off.

He attended St. Thomas Aquinas high school in North Vancouver, where Marc and Helene Crawford still have a home all these years later, before taking the two-year broadcasting program at BCIT in Burnaby. Dylan started his career in video with the NHL Network.

“I went from a basic editor at the NHL Network to highlight supervisor to associate producer at the end,” the 32-year-old said. “I'd go on the road and I was in charge of the interviews in between periods and stuff like that, and also was in charge of putting together the highlight packages and things you would see between periods and after the games. And that's kind of where the idea of maybe trying to get into video coaching came about.

“My Uncle Eric was a video coach with Vancouver when Marc was there. That was always like my dream job to be in that position, to try and get into video coaching.”

Eric Crawford spent 16 years with the Canucks, moving from coaching into scouting. He is now the Montreal Canadiens’ head of professional scouting. Another of Dylan’s uncles, Lou Crawford, is a pro scout for the Canucks.

Dylan spent the last four seasons as an assistant video coach with the Blackhawks – he preceded his dad to Chicago by a year – and interviewed with Canucks coach Bruce Boudreau and general manager Patrik Allvin this spring before getting the job in Vancouver.

Marc said no one from the Canucks reached out to him during the hiring process.

“I've had so many people just talk about what a good person he is, and it just makes you proud,” Marc said of his son. “Both my wife and I are very proud of Dylan from that standpoint because, you know, his father was such an idiot. He takes more after his mother than his dad, which is why we’re so proud of him.

“He's got a really good personality. He likes people. And if you're going to be a video coach and dealing with so many players and coaches, staff and upper management, scouts and all those people, you better be someone that's a people person. He's definitely that. There's no Summer Crow and Winter Crow in him. There's just Dylan, and he's a pretty good kid.”

Summer Crow and Winter Crow are what reporters came to call Marc when he coached the Canucks, so different was his personality when hockey season was on. Think Ebenezer Scrooge before and after Christmas Eve.

Asked what he thought about his son dodging the family name to get his first job, Marc said: “I thought that it was really good. He wanted to make sure that he was going to find his own way.”

Dylan said he always wanted to find his way to the Canucks and back to Vancouver. In Grade 3 when his dad replaced Mike Keenan as coach in 1999, Dylan remembers going on the ice at Rogers Arena after practices and taking shots from Brendan Morrison, getting goaltending instruction from Ian Clark.

He is excited about his new job, except for the challenge of he and his wife, Katrina, finding affordable housing.

“You should be excited when people like Jim Rutherford (the Canucks president) are at the helm,” Dylan said. “Just look him up on HockeyDB and you can't not get excited about what he brings. And the same goes for everybody that he's brought in, like Patrik Allvin, another person who has worked his way up and has a vision for what this team can be. And the way that they have built the front office is not only as progressive as stated, but there's free thinking and different-minded individuals. There's not going to be any idea or avenue that won't be looked upon to try and reach the end goal.

“Deep down, I really wanted to be involved in the game. Like you said, it's the family business, but I never could really understand where my niche would be. But then, looking back at my Uncle Eric, the video side just really fell into place.

“I could be having my normal, average-Joe-type life, but there's nothing that compares for me to the ability to go to the rink every day and be able to watch hockey at a professional level and then be able to help your team get better. I can't get that anywhere else.”

Baby Crow takes flight.

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