‘Ironman’ named first coach
Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 17, 2003
From Staff Reports
Central Alabama’s newest professional hockey team took an important step forward last week in its effort to reestablish professional hockey in the Shelby County and Birmingham metro area this October.
At a press conference held at the Pelham Civic Complex, team President Taylor Hall formally introduced former NHL Ironman and 16-year NHL veteran Garry Unger as the franchise’s first ever Head Coach.
&uot;This is a very important day in the history of our franchise,&uot; Hall said. &uot;Garry is a class act both behind the bench and in the community and we couldn’t be more excited to have a coach of Garry’s caliber.&uot;
Hall also spoke of Unger’s success in the past.
&uot;Garry has a successful track record of managing players and player relationships effectively, and getting the most out of his teams,&uot; Hall said.
&uot;His teams compete hard every night and play together with a purpose. Garry also has the unique ability to develop young talent. Gary brings a wealth of leadership and experience to our new team and he is a proven winner,&uot; Hall said.
&uot;When we were able to convince Garry to come our way we were very excited.&uot;
&uot;I like the idea of starting a new franchise,&uot; Unger said. &uot;I think the most exciting time of a franchise’s existence is the start-up process. I found it very rewarding when I was part of the group that brought professional hockey back to Tulsa and look forward to similar success with this team.
&uot;This area has a strong hockey tradition and is well known for having some of the best fans in the game.&uot;
&uot;It’s just really a pleasure for me to be here,&uot; Unger said. &uot;Being around town and hearing people talking about the games is really neat.&uot;
During his playing career, Unger earned Rookie of the Year honors after recording 24 goals and 20 assists in his first full season in the NHL with the Detroit Red Wings.
This would prove to be just the beginning of his star-studded career, as he would go on to be named &uot;Most Valuable Player&uot; for the Wings during the 1970-71 campaign and Most Valuable Player of the NHL All-Star Game in 1974.
Unger’s dominance set a new standard in the city of St. Louis after being traded to the Blues during the 1970-71 season.
The zealous forward mounted seven Most Valuable Player selections (1971-78) in the nine years he was with the team. In that span, Unger posted 490 points (247-243-490), averaging 70 points a season.
After his 16-year NHL career, Unger was affectionately referred to as &uot;The Ironman&uot;, appearing in 914 consecutive contests. In addition to that lofty accomplishment, he was a member of seven NHL All-Star teams while representing the St. Louis Blues. In the NHL alone, Unger played in 1,105 games while making stops at St. Louis, Detroit, Atlanta, Edmonton, Los Angeles and Toronto.
In addition to his playing career, Unger brings 11 years of professional coaching experience to the new Central Alabama franchise, including seven seasons with the Tulsa Oilers of the Central Hockey League, where he led the Oilers to the league championship in his first season and was named CHL Coach of the Year.
With the Oilers, Unger compiled a 230-187-31 regular season record. His 230 career victories are the second most by a head coach in Central Hockey League history.
As a result of his success, Unger was selected to coach in the 1998 Western Professional Hockey League All-Star Game and most recently in the 2004 CHL All-Star Game.
A native of Calgary, Alberta, Garry and his wife, Beverly, have three daughters, Kim, Jamie and Kristi