Roger’s Impact: Five alumni comment on how they were shaped by Neilson

Roger Neilson evolved the regulations in hockey, how the sport is understood by players, and taught by coaches. There are seldom conversations with Petes alumni from 1966-1976 that do not touch on the influence Neilson made directly on their development into adulthood. Furthermore, former Petes who graduated later from the program often comment on the spillover his presence made in shaping Peterborough’s strong hockey culture. The following are remarks by Petes alumni, revealing the outcome of Neilson’s lessons and mannerisms on their lives.

1. “We had superstars in that era, but you have to give a lot of credit to Roger Neilson. Roger was a real hard ass in his own way. We were the best conditioned team. He would make us practice before school which was unheard of back then, and ingrain in our heads that it wasn’t punishment but that we had to get better. Usually you do something like that and it’s just you’re whipping them, thinking ‘you’re not good enough,’ but he completely turned it [the narrative] around. He was so smart, we just needed more practice. He would get really mad but he would never swear. Why were we such a close group [1971-1973]? I think it had a lot to do with Roger Neilson, the personality he was. There was no ego, it was team-oriented. It was unreal.”

Paul McIntosh, Head Professional Scout with the Dallas Stars, Petes Alumnus 1971-1974

Paul McIntosh Headshot

2. “I was so fortunate to have the opportunity, my relationship with Roger Neilson was a strong one and I’ve been in the league now and had the chance to play in the NHL and a lot of it had to do with Dick’s friendship with Roger. They kind of back-doored me into working for him at his hockey school. Dick said I needed more ice time in the summer but Roger needed more counsellors at his hockey school, so he thought it would be a real good reason to go skating at night and counsel in the summer. It was the worst job I ever had, you have all these kids for four to five weeks in the summer, but I quickly became one of Roger’s guys as were Coli [Campbell] and Mike Murphy. It transpired over into my NHL career, as soon as Roger got a coaching job with the Rangers, they traded for me the next day and I know it wouldn’t have happened for me had I not spent all those summers at his hockey school. He also helped me start my own hockey school. If there is one person that everyone can look to that had a part in their success, I think that was Roger, Dick is a part of that, Coli is a part of that. Its kind of Roger’s group.”

Kris King, Senior Vice President of Hockey Operations with the NHL, Petes Alumnus 1983-1987

Kris King

3. “I had the great privilege to play goal for the Petes from 1972-1975. It was a life changing experience and a blueprint for my life and career thanks to the excellence of the organization and the unforgettable lessons and influences of my coach Roger Nielson and my teammates. The best life lesson I learned was when I took a slap shot from Dale McCourt of the Hamilton Red Wings in the face and suffered a broken jaw. In those days, I had a set of wires installed between my teeth to hold the upper and lower teeth together with a set of tight elastics and this allowed me to keep playing. During the time I had my jaw wired shut the team amassed four wins and two ties. When the day arrived that my jaw was sufficiently healed for the wires and elastics to be removed, Roger called me in to his office. ‘So Frank, do you think there is lesson in the fact you went undefeated with your jaw wired shut, and you couldn’t be talking to the defencemen or debating things with the referees?’ Roger said. I got the message in focus loud and clear and it has served me well now almost 45 years later.”

Frank Salive, Track Announcer at Fort Erie & Former Announcer at Kawartha Downs, Petes Alumnus 1972-1975

Frank Salive

4. “Roger touched so many lives because he was there for so long. He was disciplined in his teaching. He never wavered. I’d go back to teach at his hockey schools. Roger ran a hockey school like he ran a hockey team, he never cut corners. I sent my son to his hockey school. Plus he ran the coaching clinic that became legendary, I used to help him out in Windsor since I was living down there when I was playing and coaching the the Red Wings. It became the unofficial coaches’ union. You’d go and someone would have a history with Roger and his coaching. If you’d go to his coaching clinic and present, you had to hand in your presentation. There was no going there the night before and ‘what am I going to talk to these guys the night before?’ You had to hand them in two weeks before so he could put it all in a book, and hand it to all the people coming. It was a great coaching clinic. Like anything Roger did, he did it well.”

Colin Campbell, Senior Executive Vice President of Hockey Operations with the NHL, Petes Alumnus 1970-1973

Colin Campbell Headshot

5. “The person I had so much connection was with Roger Neilson. He was such an innovator of the game. The stunts that he pulled were comical at the time but there were no rules to stop what he did. Putting the goalie stick on the goal line when the goalie leaves the net and, you know, once he was in Vancouver he didn’t like the refereeing so he waves the towel and those things have become such a big feature about his past.”

Dick Todd, Assistant Coach of the New York Rangers 1993-1998 & Head Coach of the Petes 1980-1993/2004-2006

Dick Todd

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