Berube takes over head coaching reins of Toronto Maple Leafs

Wednesday, May 22nd, 2024 3:15pm


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Craig Berube, new head coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs.
By Sam Laskaris
Local Journalism Initiative Reporter

The Toronto Maple Leafs are hoping an Indigenous coach whose resume includes a Stanley Cup championship will help improve their fortunes, especially in future post-seasons.

Craig Berube, who is Cree from the Alberta hamlet of Calahoo, was officially introduced as the new head coach of the National Hockey League squad at a press conference on May 21.

Berube won the Stanley Cup in 2019 when he was head coach of the St. Louis Blues.

The Leafs have registered winning regular season records in each of the past eight seasons, but the Toronto franchise has won just one playoff series during this stretch.

Sheldon Keefe, who served as the Leafs’ head coach for the last five years, was fired earlier this month, mere days after the club’s 2023-24 campaign ended with another first-round playoff exit.

Berube, who was fired by the Blues last December and had worked since as a broadcaster, became one of the favourites to take over the Leafs’ coaching reins. Though he was introduced as the team’s new bench boss on Tuesday, Berube had officially agreed to join the Toronto club on May 17.

Berube, who is 58, is thrilled to be calling the shots now for the Leafs.

“It’s a huge honour obviously,” he said. “Great franchise. Original six (team). I had the opportunity to play here for a little bit way back in the day. And it’s nothing but first class here.”

Berube, who appeared in 1,143 NHL contests during his playing days, suited up for 40 games with the Leafs during the 1990-91 campaign.

Despite their lack of recent post-season success, the Leafs’ roster does feature some of the NHL’s most exciting players, including forwards Auston Matthews, Mitch Marner and William Nylander.

“That was one of the attractions,” Berube said of his decision to accept the Toronto coaching post. “The core player group is great here. They’ve got some great players here. And that was definitely one of the attractions to come and coach this team.”

Berube realizes he is being brought in to lead the talent-rich Leafs to some playoff success.

“For me, personally, a Canadian-born kid, you get a chance to coach the Toronto Maple Leafs, for me, I’m going to jump on that,” he said.

The team’s new head coach was asked what a Berube-coached team will look like.

“Competitive,” he said. “We don’t want to get outworked, ever. We want to be highly competitive every night. And it’s all about the team for me. That’s one of the things I focus on. And that’s part of building a team. Everybody is important on the team. Everybody has got to be used on the team. And they all have jobs and roles on the team.”

Berube has also earned a reputation of being a solid communicator.

“Communication is huge,” he said. “I think one of my strengths is I’m a great communicator with my players. They know where they stand. I’m going to tell them when they’re playing well. I’m going to tell them when they’re not playing well.”

Berube is also looking forward to working with Leafs’ general manager Brad Treliving and the team president Brendan Shanahan, a former NHL player himself.

“We’re all on the same page and I think that’s important,” Berube said.

Treliving said several other candidates were interviewed for the Leafs’ job. Whenever those within the organization contacted others to get information on Berube, the feedback was always positive.

“As we started this process I think we were very fortunate to have somebody of Craig’s ability available,” Treliving said. “That doesn’t happen all the time. And I think he’s just a great match. I think he’s a perfect fit for the group for where we’re at right now.”

Shanahan chuckled when asked to reminisce about the on-ice battles he used to have with Berube when they both played in the league.

“He was a competitor,” Shanahan said. “He was a guy that you always knew when he was on the ice.”

For Berube, the Maple Leafs are the third NHL team that he will be the head coach of.

Berube was in his sixth season of leading the Blues when he was fired. Before that he had spent two years as the Philadelphia Flyers’ head coach.

Local Journalism Initiative Reporters are supported by a financial contribution made by the Government of Canada.