‘He took my career to another level’: former Oilers coach John Muckler dies at age 86

Former Oilers coach John Muckler has died at the age of 86. Oilers Entertainment Group

John Muckler, a man credited with playing a significant role in the success of the Edmonton Oilers dynasty, has passed away at the age of 86.

In a press release late Monday, a spokesperson for The Oilers Entertainment Group (OEG) offered condolences to Muckler’s wife Audrey and his family on the man they called a “dear friend of the organization.”

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Muckler first joined the Oilers organization as an assistant coach in 1981 after 20 years working with teams like the Vancouver Canucks, the New York Rangers and the Minnesota North Stars.

The club spoke of how respected and celebrated Muckler was by generations of players and fellow executives.

In a statement shared by the OEG, one of the greatest players of all time, Wayne Gretzky was clear that Muckler was instrumental in the success of the Oilers in the 1980s, the time Gretzky was a part of the club.

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“When you have 22 pretty good hockey players and have enjoyed some success, it’s hard to imagine the addition of an assistant coach would be the final piece to getting the Edmonton Oilers to the top of the mountain, but that’s exactly what happened when John joined the team,” Gretzky said

“He was tough, strict, but most importantly fair, and he helped lay the groundwork to make our team more accountable to each other.”

This is a sentiment also shared by OEG.

“Muckler was a key architect, along with Glen Sather and Ted Green, in helping to develop one of hockey’s most celebrated professional sports dynasties in professional sports history.”

Originally from Midland, Ont., Muckler won his first Stanley Cup as an assistant coach with the Oilers in 1984. He held that position as the team won again in 1985. Shortly after, Muckler was promoted to assistant head coach under Sather and the team went on to win two more Stanley Cups in 1987 and ’88.

The following year, Muckler took over as head coach for the team and one year later led the club to their fifth NHL title in seven years in 1990.

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After two successful seasons as head coach for the Oilers (75-65-20), Muckler moved to Buffalo to take over as that team’s director of hockey operations. Throughout his tenure with the Sabres, Muckler ended up on the bench off and on over four seasons where he compiled a record of 125-109-34 over 268 games.

Muckler took a year off coaching but ended up behind the bench again in 1997 when he was hired on as head coach for the New York Rangers. Over the next three years, Muckler added another 70 games to the win column to put his all-time win total to 276 over 648 games.

In 2001 Muckler joined the Ottawa Senators as general manager and helped propel that team to its most successful period since rejoining the league as an expansion team in 1992.

Over the next six seasons, the Sens grew into an Eastern Conference powerhouse and made it to the Stanley Cup Finals in 2007, when they lost to the Anaheim Mighty Ducks.

Muckler ended his NHL career with Phoenix where he served as the Coyotes’ senior advisor in 2008.

Prior to his coaching and managerial career, Muckler played in the Eastern Conference League for 13 years where he was described as “a rugged defenceman.”

Muckler spent five decades in the NHL as a part of more than 2,000 games.

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He also served as a coach for three NHL All-Star Games as well as coached Team Canada’s 1984 and 1987 Canada Cup-winning teams, according to OEG.

Beyond his hockey knowledge, Muckler was widely recognized as a great person.

Gretzky spoke of how Muckler was a wonderful family man and a great friend.

“He personally took my career to another level. And I will always cherish the hours we talked, from breaking down defences to raising a family.”


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