On June 12, 2009, Dan Bylsma became a legend among professional ice hockey fans, and definitely in the annals of the National Hockey League [NHL]. The NHL team, the Pittsburg Penguins, Bylsma had coached for only four months, from mid February to mid June 2009, won the national championship, also known as the Stanley cup, of the 2009 professional hockey season.
Why did Bylsma become a legend on that momentous June 2009 day? Because Bylsma had never even coached a NHL team for a whole season, and had only become the official coach of the team at the end of April 2009. In mid February 2009, when he was appointed to coach the Pittsburg team, the appointment had been as an interim coach. Up to that point the Pitsburg team’s performance had been at best mediocre. But following Bylsma’s mid season appointment, Bylsma was able to turn the team around, and the management of the Pittsburg club quickly saw that Bylsma was going to be their future coach.
Although Bylsma had had only limited coaching experience, he had been in the NHL for many years, including nine years as a professional NHL player. But as a player he had been far from a star. He was essentially a utility player, who was used extensively for penalty killing assignments, but seldom as a regular player. During his entire NHL career, he had played for either the Los Angeles Kings or the Anaheim Ducks. However, during his NHL career as a player, he had participated in 429 games, but had only scored 19 injury goals, been given credit for 43 assists and had earned 184 points. From the above, one can see that he was valued as a player with his 429 games. But as a goal or point producer he had remained clearly in the wings.
Prior to his playing career in the NHL, Bylsma had played for Bowling Green State University as part of the NCAA ice hockey competition, from 1988 to 1992. Following graduation from college, Bylsma played for the Greensboro Monarchs of the Eastern Canadian Hockey League [ECHL], and the Rochester Americans of the American Hockey League [AHL], during the 1992-1993 season. During the 1993-1994 season, Bylsma played for the Greensboro Monarchs of the ECHL, the Albany River Rats of the AHL, and the Moncton Hawks, also of the AHL. Then in the 1994-1995 season, Bylsma got a break and was able to break into the International Hockey League [IHL], playing for the Phoenix Roadrunners. In the following year, 1995-1996, Bylsma got another break and was able, in midseason, to move to his first NHL assignment, playing for the Los Angeles Kings.
Bylsma continued playing in the NHL for most of the 1995 to 2004 time period. During the 2003-2004 season, he retired from playing hockey because of a nagging. But Bylsma had ice hockey in his blood, and immediately decided to give coaching a try. He was successful to land a job as an assistant coach in the AHL, with the Cincinnati Ducks, during the 2004-2005 season. In the following year, 2005-2006, Bylsma was able to move to the NHL as an assistant coach with the New York Islanders. But in 2007-2008, Bylsma was back in the AHL, serving as an assistant coach with the Wilkes Barre-Scranton Penguins.
In the subsequent season, 2008-2009, Bylsma got his big break, and was appointed head coach of the Wilkes Barre-Scranton AHL club. But at that time he never would have imagined, that in the same year he received his first appointment as a head coach of a minor league AHL team, he would end the season as head coach of a major league NHL team, and win the Stanley Cup. But that was exactly what happened. During mid season, the 2008-2009 season, as the rookie coach of an AHL team, he was called up to take over the coaching duties of the NHL team, the Pittsburg Penguins. And although it would take seven hard fought games during the Stanley Cup finals, the Bylsma coached Pittsburg Penguins won the Stanley Cup that year over the Detroit Red Wings.
Bylsma’s achievement of winning the Cup was not the first time a rookie coach had won the Stanley Cup. But in the case of Bylsma, he was not only a rookie coach, but his experience as a head coach, and assistant coach, was also minimal. In addition, when Bylsma took over the Pittsburg Penguins in mid season, the team, up to that point, had had a losing season, and it was not even clear that they would make the playoffs. Through Bylsma’s coaching style, he was able to convince the players that they were capable of a much better performance than they had shown so far that season. And the final result, winning the Stanley Cup, makes it clear, that he was able to convince the players on the team.
Dan Bylsma was born in Grand Haven, Michigan, on September 19, 1870 in a Dutch American family. He attended high school in the Grand Haven area, and was a stand out athlete in both baseball and golf during his high school years. He began playing hockey in the Muskegon, Michigan Junior League, in the Norton Shores Recreational Leagues, and in the Grand Rapids, Michigan Hockey Leagues.
During his college years, Bylsma played for Bowling State University, Ohio from 1988 to 1992. He was drafted by the NHL’s Winnipeg Jets in his last college year. In his first professional year the Winnipeg Jets sent him to one of their farm teams, the Greensboro Monarchs.
During the off season, Bylsma has run, for the past 14 years, a hockey camp in Western Michigan, the area in which he grew up. He has also established the Dan Bylsma Charitable Trust Fund, which provides assistance to children so they can participate in youth sports, and particularly in ice hockey.
Bylsma has also become an author spreading out his knowledge and experience in sports leadership. With his father, Jay Bylsma, Dan has co-authored, four books. Two of the books describe what it takes to make it in the NHL. The two other books are sports novels, one about base ball and one about basketball.
E-BOOKS AVAILABLE FROM AMAZON; GOOGLE: Kindle Store Pegels
PROMINENT DUTCH AMERICANS, CURRENT AND HISTORIC
EIGHT PROMINENT DUTCH AMERICAN FAMILIES: THE ROOSEVELTS, VANDERBILTS AND OTHERS, 2015
FIFTEEN PROMINENT DUTCH AMERICAN FAMILIES: THE VAN BURENS, KOCH BROTHERS, VOORHEES AND OTHERS, 2015
PROMINENT DUTCH AMERICANS IN U.S. GOVERNMENT LEADERSHIP POSITIONS, 2015
DUTCH PEGELS INVOLVED IN WARS
ALLIED EUROPE CAMPAIGN—1944/1945: TACTICAL MISTAKES, 2017
THE SECOND WORLD WAR IN THE NETHERLANDS: MEMOIRS, 2017
FRENCH REVOLUTION, NAPOLEON AND RUSSIAN WAR OF 1812, 2015
Dan Bylsma, Dan Bylsma’s hockey statistics profile at hockeydb, http://hockeydb.com/ihdb/stats/pdisplay.php?pid=6406
Dan Bylsma, Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dan_Bylsma