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Debating with your friends who’s the best Ice Hockey coach?

Scotty Bowman, Al Arbour or Joel Quenneville?

Here is our list of the best Ice Hockey coaches of all time.

Do you agree with our picks?

Best Ice Hockey Coaches:

  1. Scotty Bowman
  2. Al Arbour
  3. Joel Quenneville
  4. Mike Babcock
  5. Ken Hitchcock
  6. Pat Quinn
  7. Herb Brooks
  8. Glen Sather
  9. Barry Trotz
  10. Dick Irvin
  11. Toe Blake
Ice Hockey

#1 Scotty Bowman

  • πŸ† Achievements: 9 Stanley Cups as a head coach; most wins in NHL history
  • πŸ“… Years Active: 1967–2002
  • πŸ‘• Teams Coached: St. Louis Blues, Montreal Canadiens, Buffalo Sabres, Pittsburgh Penguins, Detroit Red Wings
  • 🌐 Nationality: Canadian

Scotty Bowman is widely considered one of the greatest coaches in hockey history. His record of nine Stanley Cup victories as a head coach is unmatched, and his teams were perennial contenders for the championship throughout his coaching tenure.

Bowman’s coaching style was characterized by his incredible attention to detail, strategic mindset, and the ability to adapt to the ever-evolving game. He was a master at adjusting tactics to the strengths of his teams and opponents, making him an exceptionally versatile coach.

He retired with the distinction of the most regular season and playoff wins by an NHL coach, solidifying his legacy in the world of ice hockey. Bowman’s impact on the game remains a benchmark for coaching excellence.

#2 Al Arbour

  • πŸ† Achievements: 4 consecutive Stanley Cups with the New York Islanders
  • πŸ“… Years Active: 1970–1994, 2007 (single game)
  • πŸ‘• Teams Coached: St. Louis Blues, New York Islanders
  • 🌐 Nationality: Canadian

Al Arbour led the New York Islanders to an NHL dynasty with four consecutive Stanley Cup victories from 1980 to 1983. He is revered for creating one of the most dominant teams in hockey history.

Arbour’s coaching was characterized by his exceptional leadership qualities and the ability to forge a cohesive team unit that could withstand the pressures of high-stakes competition. His emphasis on team play and accountability made the Islanders a formidable force.

By the time of his retirement, Arbour had etched his name in the record books with the second-most wins of any coach in NHL history. His legacy lives on in the hearts of Islanders fans and in the annals of ice hockey lore.

#3 Joel Quenneville

  • πŸ† Achievements: 3 Stanley Cups with the Chicago Blackhawks
  • πŸ“… Years Active: 1996–Present
  • πŸ‘• Teams Coached: St. Louis Blues, Colorado Avalanche, Chicago Blackhawks, Florida Panthers
  • 🌐 Nationality: Canadian

Joel Quenneville is known for his remarkable success with the Chicago Blackhawks, leading them to three Stanley Cup championships in 2010, 2013, and 2015. His coaching career has been highlighted by consistent playoff appearances and deep runs.

Quenneville’s approach to coaching emphasizes a strong defensive system paired with an opportunistic offense. His ability to manage and motivate star players has been a key factor in his teams’ successes.

As one of the top winning coaches in NHL history, Quenneville’s reputation as an elite coach is well-deserved, and his impact on the game continues as he leads teams into the future.

#4 Mike Babcock

  • πŸ† Achievements: 1 Stanley Cup with the Detroit Red Wings; 2 Olympic Gold Medals with Team Canada
  • πŸ“… Years Active: 2002–2020
  • πŸ‘• Teams Coached: Mighty Ducks of Anaheim, Detroit Red Wings, Toronto Maple Leafs
  • 🌐 Nationality: Canadian

Mike Babcock made a significant mark on the ice hockey coaching landscape with a Stanley Cup win in 2008 and two Olympic gold medals in 2010 and 2014 as head coach of the Canadian national team. His career is highlighted by his role in making the Detroit Red Wings a powerhouse during his tenure.

Recognized for his demanding style and focus on work ethic, Babcock has been praised for instilling discipline and structure in his teams. His coaching philosophy centers on accountability and attention to detail, which has translated into success on the ice.

Despite controversies toward the end of his tenure in Toronto, Babcock’s accomplishments in the NHL and international hockey have cemented his status as one of the top coaches in modern hockey history.

#5 Ken Hitchcock

  • πŸ† Achievements: 1 Stanley Cup with the Dallas Stars; numerous coaching awards
  • πŸ“… Years Active: 1995–2018
  • πŸ‘• Teams Coached: Dallas Stars, Philadelphia Flyers, Columbus Blue Jackets, St. Louis Blues, Edmonton Oilers
  • 🌐 Nationality: Canadian

Ken Hitchcock’s coaching career is defined by his Stanley Cup victory with the Dallas Stars in 1999 and his reputation for turning around struggling teams. He is known for his strong defensive systems and an ability to extract the best from his rosters.

Hitchcock’s philosophy revolves around a disciplined, team-first approach, making sure every player contributes to the overarching defensive strategy. His systems have been incredibly difficult to penetrate, often leading to significant success in the postseason.

A respected figure in the coaching community, Hitchcock has also been a mentor to many coaches throughout the NHL. His extensive experience and understanding of the game have made him an invaluable asset to every team he has been a part of.

#6 Pat Quinn

  • πŸ† Achievements: Led teams to multiple conference championships; World Junior Championship and Olympic gold medal with Team Canada
  • πŸ“… Years Active: 1978–2010
  • πŸ‘• Teams Coached: Philadelphia Flyers, Los Angeles Kings, Vancouver Canucks, Toronto Maple Leafs, Edmonton Oilers
  • 🌐 Nationality: Canadian

Pat Quinn was a respected figure in the NHL both as a player and a coach. Although he never won a Stanley Cup as a head coach, his teams frequently excelled, reaching the Stanley Cup Finals and winning conference championships.

Known for his player-friendly coaching style, Quinn had a knack for getting the best out of his players and fostering a positive team environment. His leadership skills were evident in the way his teams would often outperform expectations.

Beyond the NHL, Quinn’s contribution to Canadian ice hockey includes guiding Team Canada to Olympic gold in 2002 and a World Junior Championship in 2009, showcasing his ability to coach successfully at all levels of the sport.

#7 Herb Brooks

  • πŸ† Achievements: Miracle on Ice – 1980 Olympic Gold Medal; successful NCAA coaching career
  • πŸ“… Years Active: 1966–2003 (intermittently)
  • πŸ‘• Teams Coached: University of Minnesota, HC Davos, New York Rangers, Minnesota North Stars, New Jersey Devils, Pittsburgh Penguins
  • 🌐 Nationality: American

Herb Brooks is forever immortalized as the architect of the “Miracle on Ice,” when he led the US Olympic Hockey Team to a gold medal in the 1980 Winter Olympics, defeating the heavily favored Soviet Union in a historic matchup.

Brooks’ coaching style heavily emphasized teamwork, conditioning, and innovative strategies that were ahead of his time. He was known for his psychological approach to coaching, pushing his players beyond their limits to achieve greatness.

His influence extended beyond the Olympic triumph; Brooks had a successful tenure in college hockey with the University of Minnesota, where he won three NCAA championships. He also coached multiple NHL teams, leaving his mark on both the amateur and professional levels of the sport.

#8 Glen Sather

  • πŸ† Achievements: 4 Stanley Cups with the Edmonton Oilers during the 1980s
  • πŸ“… Years Active: 1977–1994 (as a head coach)
  • πŸ‘• Teams Coached: Edmonton Oilers, New York Rangers
  • 🌐 Nationality: Canadian

Glen Sather stands out as the driving force behind the Edmonton Oilers’ 1980s dynasty that captured four Stanley Cups under his guidance. His coaching was integral to the Oilers’ high-octane, offensively driven success during a golden era of hockey in Edmonton.

Sather’s philosophy revolved around unleashing the offensive potential of his players, allowing the talent of stars like Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier to flourish. He created an environment that fostered creativity and offensive prowess, cementing the Oilers as one of the most exciting teams to watch.

Aside from his coaching career, Sather also served as a general manager and president, with a keen eye for talent and team building. His contribution to the sport has been multifaceted, significantly impacting the success of the organizations with which he was involved.

#9 Barry Trotz

  • πŸ† Achievements: 1 Stanley Cup with the Washington Capitals; Jack Adams Award as the NHL’s top coach
  • πŸ“… Years Active: 1998–Present
  • πŸ‘• Teams Coached: Nashville Predators, Washington Capitals, New York Islanders
  • 🌐 Nationality: Canadian

Barry Trotz solidified his place among the best coaches in ice hockey history when he led the Washington Capitals to their first Stanley Cup in 2018. His tenure in the NHL has been marked by transforming teams into disciplined and defensively sound units.

Trotz’s attention to detail, especially on the defensive end, and his ability to cultivate a strong team identity have been the hallmarks of his coaching career. Players often speak highly of his communication skills and his ability to build trust within the locker room.

In addition to the Stanley Cup, Trotz has received the Jack Adams Award, which is given to the coach adjudged to have contributed the most to his team’s success. His longevity and success in the league are testaments to his expertise and adaptability.

#10 Dick Irvin

  • πŸ† Achievements: 4 Stanley Cups; Hall of Fame Inductee
  • πŸ“… Years Active: 1930–1956
  • πŸ‘• Teams Coached: Chicago Black Hawks, Toronto Maple Leafs, Montreal Canadiens
  • 🌐 Nationality: Canadian

Dick Irvin was one of the early trailblazers of coaching in ice hockey, amassing four Stanley Cups during his time behind the bench. Irvin’s coaching career spanned the days when the NHL was evolving into the league we know today.

His leadership and innovative coaching methods led teams to success in an era when the game was played under very different circumstances from the modern NHL. He was known for his commitment to winning and his ability to inspire his players.

Irvin’s impact on the game was acknowledged with his induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame, and he remains one of the most influential figures in the history of NHL coaching.

#11 Toe Blake

  • πŸ† Achievements: 8 Stanley Cups as a head coach; Hall of Fame Inductee
  • πŸ“… Years Active: 1955–1968
  • πŸ‘• Teams Coached: Montreal Canadiens
  • 🌐 Nationality: Canadian

Toe Blake is best known for his remarkable stint with the Montreal Canadiens, where he won an astounding 8 Stanley Cups as a head coach. His time behind the bench is part of the Canadiens’ storied legacy, representing one of the most successful periods in franchise history.

Blake’s coaching prowess was characterized by his disciplined approach to the game and his exceptional leadership qualities. He commanded respect from his players and was masterful at executing game plans that leveraged the strengths of his roster.

His contributions were honored with an induction into the Hockey Hall of Fame, and today, Toe Blake is remembered as a coaching legend whose impact on the game is still felt. His name lives on in the annals of hockey history as one of the sport’s most successful coaches.

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Ice Hockey


Who is the greatest ice hockey coach of all time?

Scotty Bowman is widely considered the greatest ice hockey coach of all time, winning nine Stanley Cups over his career.

Who was the most successful ice hockey coach?

Scotty Bowman was the most successful ice hockey coach, with the highest number of regular season victories and nine Stanley Cup wins.

Max is a sports enthusiast who loves all kinds of ball and water sports. He founded & runs stand-up-paddling.org (#1 German Paddleboarding Blog), played competitive Badminton and Mini Golf (competed on national level in Germany), started learning β€˜real’ Golf and dabbled in dozens of other sports & activities.

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