After 22 seasons spanning more than 1,500 games with four franchises, Dallas Stars head coach Ken Hitchcock announced Friday that he is retiring from coaching in the NHL.
"The game of hockey has been my entire life and I could never repay what the game did for me and all the wonderful people I got to meet in my career," Hitchcock said in a letter released Friday morning. "I would like to thank everyone for their friendship and support over the years. I have contemplated this since our last game and I came to the conclusion that now is the right time to step away and let the younger generation of coaches takes over."
In his letter, Hitchcock thanked the organizations, executives, coaches, players, media and, most importantly for him, the fans that he encountered in more than two decades behind the bench. The Stars said that Hitchcock will remain with the team as a consultant.
Hitchcock leaves with the third-most wins (823) in the fourth-most games (1,536) as a head coach in the history of the league. Teams under his tutelage won eight division titles and two Presidents' Trophies. He guided the Stars to their first-ever Stanley Cup championship in 1999 and got them back to the Finals the next season in his first tour of duty in Dallas, and later won the Jack Adams Award as the league's best coach in 2011-12 with the St. Louis Blues.
"Ken Hitchcock is an icon when it comes to head coaches, not only in hockey, but across all of sports," Stars general manager Jim Nill said Friday. "He poured his whole life into better understanding in-game concepts and strategy, inspiring players and enhancing teams. He leaves an indelible mark on the game and his influence will be felt across the sport for years to come. We want to thank Ken for all that he has given throughout his coaching career."
A native of Edmonton, Hitchcock also featured on many Team Canada staffs, winning gold as a head coach at the 2002 IIHF World Championship and as an assistant coach in the Olympics in 2002, 2010 and 2014. He said Friday that he will "forever be grateful" to be able to finish his career in Dallas, where it all started back in 1996. He holds the Stars marks for most wins and most games coached after parts of eight seasons in Dallas overall.
"We were honored to have Ken as our head coach and it was fitting that he finished his coaching here," Stars owner and governor Tom Gaglardi said Friday. "He is a certain Hockey Hall of Fame coach and he left a lasting legacy wherever he went."