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Sharks coach celebrates good buddy Maurice's coaching milestone

Winnipeg Jets head coach Paul Maurice acknowledges the crowd's standing ovation after he is congratulated for coaching 1,500 NHL games Tuesday against the San Jose Sharks in Winnipeg.

JOHN WOODS / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS

Winnipeg Jets head coach Paul Maurice acknowledges the crowd's standing ovation after he is congratulated for coaching 1,500 NHL games Tuesday against the San Jose Sharks in Winnipeg.

They share a storied history going back to junior hockey in the mid-1980s, not to mention an ensuing professional rivalry and personal friendship that has stood the test of time.

So it was only fitting that as Paul Maurice celebrated a major milestone Tuesday night, Pete DeBoer was there to witness it. Maurice's 1,500th regular-season game behind an NHL bench involved his Winnipeg Jets taking on DeBoer's San Jose Sharks at Bell MTS Place.

Maurice is just the sixth coach in league history to hit the 1,500 mark.

“Completely more special because of that," Maurice said prior to the game. "I got a lot of really nice texts over the last week, but his was the one I’ll cherish and appreciate (the most)."

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They share a storied history going back to junior hockey in the mid-1980s, not to mention an ensuing professional rivalry and personal friendship that has stood the test of time.

So it was only fitting that as Paul Maurice celebrated a major milestone Tuesday night, Pete DeBoer was there to witness it. Maurice's 1,500th regular-season game behind an NHL bench involved his Winnipeg Jets taking on DeBoer's San Jose Sharks at Bell MTS Place.

Maurice is just the sixth coach in league history to hit the 1,500 mark.

"Completely more special because of that," Maurice said prior to the game. "I got a lot of really nice texts over the last week, but his was the one I’ll cherish and appreciate (the most)."

The feeling is definitely mutual.

"I think it’s appropriate, I coached with him his first year as a head coach in junior hockey in Detroit. I was 25 and he was 26. Fifteen hundred games is an absurd number of games and I look at that list (of games coached) that he’s on and I don’t think anybody has done more with the teams that they’ve had," said DeBoer.

"And that’s not a slight on anybody there. But this guy, you can count on one hand the number of teams he’s gone into the season with where people have said ‘hey, that’s a team that should win.’ He’s persevered, he’s survived it and he’s taken a step back and gone to Russia in order to keep going. I have a tremendous amount of respect for him and I couldn’t be happier for him. It’s an outstanding achievement."

Their relationship actually pre-dates coaching, as Maurice and DeBoer were teammates on the Windsor Spitfires of the Ontario Hockey League for three seasons between 1985-1988. DeBoer was asked Tuesday what kind of player Maurice was, and couldn't resist the chance to get in a dig.

"He was a coach," DeBoer deadpanned. "Great leadership. Hands were, you know."

The numbers don't lie. While Maurice put up just eight goals and 29 assists in those three years, DeBoer had a bit more pop to his game as he scored 39 times and added 41 helpers.

The pair ended up behind the bench together with the Detroit Junior Red Wings in 1994, with Maurice as a second-year head coach and DeBoer as his rookie assistant. Together, they won the OHL championship.

Gene J. Puskar / THE CANADIAN PRESS FILES</p><p>San Jose Sharks' Pete DeBoer began his coaching career with Winnipeg Jets' Paul Maurice when they coached junior hockey together in Detroit.</p>

Gene J. Puskar / THE CANADIAN PRESS FILES

San Jose Sharks' Pete DeBoer began his coaching career with Winnipeg Jets' Paul Maurice when they coached junior hockey together in Detroit.

"We beat Jeff O’Neill and (Todd) Bertuzzi in the OHL final. We got to the Memorial Cup and played the Kamloops (Blazers) and their starting lineup was Shane Doan, Jarome Iginla and Darcy Tucker. It was 7-1 (for Kamloops) before we looked up. That was probably the worst beating the two of us took behind a bench," said DeBoer.

"He loved coming to the rink even then and he was a miserable SOB when we lost. The running joke was that his wife and my wife and me would walk 10 feet behind him out of the rink if we lost a game in junior hockey because he was so miserable. I think he’s lightened up a bit on the losses and he’s enjoying the ride a little bit more. He’s one of the best coaches I’ve been around."

"I’m happy for him and the journey he’s had. I think he’s going to go down as one of the best coaches of all time. He hasn’t had the luxury of some great teams, although he’s in a great spot right now and at the right time for him."

Maurice admitted Tuesday to some early personality clashes between the pair, which helped them both grow as leaders. There have been big personal moments as well, including attending each other's wedding.

"We’ve probably both, in talking to him, both given up more control for the right reasons and used the people around us a whole lot better. What Pete was good at is if there were four problems on the board, he could pick the one that was the real problem and then spend no time worrying about the other three. My personality’s more, I’m pretty good at picking out the problem but I’m still going to worry about the other three," said Maurice.

Maurice recalled an example from their time together, when they participated in the annual OHL schedule meeting and got absolutely schooled by pretty much everyone else in the room.

"We’re driving home and I’m looking at a stretch of the schedule and I’m saying to him ‘I’m pretty sure that this is the worst block of games in the history of hockey.’ We went from like Sault Ste. Marie to Newmarket, we played like five games in seven nights. It was horrible and it was my inexperience. He said ‘Don’t worry about it, we’re probably going to win 'em all.’ So that’s Pete’s strength, he wasn’t worried about that," said Maurice.

"We got seven out of eight points, and it was still a horse s—t schedule. He was wrong, it was a terrible schedule. So that was what our car rides were like."

Both men admitted they've wondered what a playoff series against each other would be like. It nearly happened last season, as the Jets reached the Western Conference final while the Sharks fell short to the Vegas Golden Knights. With their teams both looking like legitimate Stanley Cup contenders againt this season, perhaps it's in the cards.

"Yeah, we wouldn’t talk to each other. At all. Not from the start to the finish," said Maurice.

"I’d love to see him win the Stanley Cup, as long as we had won more. For anybody that’s played together on a team, so a junior team we spent two or three years together, you’re like the best of friends. But there’s a constant competition about everything, whether it’s ping pong, I don’t care what it is. So Pete and I have always had that competition with each other."

mike.mcintyre@freepress.mb.ca

Twitter: @mikemcintyrewpg

Mike McIntyre

Mike McIntyre
Reporter

Mike McIntyre grew up wanting to be a professional wrestler. But when that dream fizzled, he put all his brawn into becoming a professional writer.

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History

Updated on Tuesday, February 5, 2019 at 7:39 PM CST: Adds photo

10:59 PM: Adds photo

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