Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Coaching Legend Heyliger Passes

Michigan's website is reporting that former Michigan hockey coach Vic Heyliger has died. Heyliger was 87.

Heyliger coached the Wolverines from 1944 to 1957. He won 6 NCAA titles during his time at Michigan, which is the most ever won by a coach. In addition to the six titles, the Wolverines also made 4 other NCAA tournament appearances during his tenure.

His began his college coaching career at the University of Illinois in 1939, before moving on to Michigan. After a ten year absence from coaching, Heyliger became the first coach of the Air Force hockey program in 1968.

He was born in Boston, Massachusetts, played prep school hockey for Lawrence Academy and played college hockey at the University of Michigan, where he was an All-American. At one time, he was Michigan's all-time career leader in goals scored with 116. He played 33 NHL games in two stints for the Chicago Blackhawks. Interestingly, while most coaches today worry about their players bolting for the NHL, Heyliger, who was head coach of the Illini hockey team, that left school to go play for the injury depleted Blackhawks in the 1943-44 season.

In 2003, named Heyliger the 6th greatest college hockey coach of all-time.

Heyliger may not have received as much attention as some of the college hockey coaching greats, but his impacto on the game is undeniable. He is often credited as one of the first coaches to recruit players, and was also instrumental in setting up the first NCAA championships. He helped transform college hockey from a club sport to the great game that is today.

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