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Anaheim is hot spot for NHL coaches and executives

Toronto may be the self-proclaimed Center of the Hockey Universe, but Anaheim has become the cradle of NHL coaches and executives, a position solidified last week when a former general manager of the Ducks fired a former Ducks coach and hired another former Ducks coach to salvage a sorry season.

Maple Leafs General Manager Brian Burke, who put the final touches on the Ducks’ 2007 Stanley Cup team, on Friday fired Ron Wilson — the Ducks’ inaugural coach — and brought in Randy Carlyle, who coached Burke’s Ducks to the Cup but was dismissed in late November during a season-sabotaging slump.

Carlyle joins several former Ducks coaches scattered around the NHL: Detroit’s Mike Babcock, who led the Ducks to the Cup finals in 2003 and won the title with the Red Wings; Ottawa’s Paul MacLean, an assistant to Babcock in Anaheim; former Ducks coach Craig Hartsburg, an assistant with Calgary; and former Ducks assistant Newell Brown, an associate coach of the Vancouver Canucks. In addition, Toronto’s goaltending coach, Francois Allaire, had the same job in Anaheim.

On the management side, Burke’s peers as former Ducks executives are Montreal’s Pierre Gauthier, Ottawa’s Bryan Murray and Minnesota’s Chuck Fletcher, who was an assistant general manager in Anaheim.

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Hockey is a tight little world, eh?

Oh, and Carlyle’s successor in Anaheim, Bruce Boudreau, was a teammate of Carlyle and Wilson with the 1977-78 Maple Leafs.

“You knew he’d jump back on his feet really quickly,” Boudreau said of Carlyle, who won his Toronto coaching debut Saturday. “It just seems like they’re all my teammates, ex-teammates that are getting fired and hired.”

Wilson’s dismissal followed a 1-9-1 stretch in which the Maple Leafs fell out of playoff position. Burke said he made no deals at the trade deadline because he believed the team “can get it back on the rails,” but a bad home loss to Florida last Tuesday and fans’ loud chants of “Fire Wilson” changed Burke’s mind.

“It was clear at that point that the team wasn’t with him,” Burke told reporters in Toronto. “I was looking at the bench. They weren’t paying attention; they weren’t buying it.”

Eager to spare Wilson the ordeal of facing another hostile home crowd, Burke got the Ducks’ permission to speak to Carlyle on Wednesday and quickly signed him to a three-year deal. Carlyle will make his home coaching debut Tuesday.

“Toronto’s a hard place to be and if you don’t win there, boy,” Boudreau said. “I was listening to the last game and I think Burke was right when he said it would be cruel punishment to put Ronnie though another game if they started losing again. I was sick when I was hearing those people.”

Carlyle admitted during his introductory news conference that he mishandled winger Joffrey Lupul in Anaheim, showing more humility than Wilson ever did. He also said he sensed “a lot of tension” among players.

“It’s not that they’ve lost their skills. We have to rekindle their spirits,” he said.

And their defensive ability. And special-teams play.

Carlyle was gruff and stubborn in Anaheim but compiled an impressive record before players tuned out his barking. Most NHL coaches, no matter how good, have a shelf life of four to five years, giving Carlyle and Burke that much time to duplicate the success they had in Anaheim.

United for good cause

A public service advertisement that aired during the Boston Bruins-New York Rangers game Sunday on NBC had a higher purpose than the usual pitches for cars and beer.

The ad launched the “You Can Play” campaign, intended to promote acceptance and respect for gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender athletes. It featured a dozen high-profile NHL players, including Corey Perry of the Ducks, Henrik Lundqvist of the Rangers, Rick Nash of Columbus, Duncan Keith of Chicago and Daniel Alfredsson of Ottawa.

Inspired by the late Brendan Burke, the openly gay son of Brian Burke, the ad and the organization behind it aim to end homophobia by urging that athletes be judged according to their ability, not their sexual orientation. A website (https://www.youcanplayproject.org) offers advice and resources to athletes, coaches and fans. Burke and another son, Patrick, a scout for the Philadelphia Flyers, are on the organization’s board.

Slap shots

Tampa Bay General Manager Steve Yzerman, the top executive behind Canada’s Olympic triumph at Vancouver, was appointed executive director of Team Canada for the 2014 Sochi Games. He will have that job even if NHL players don’t participate, a decision still to be negotiated by the NHL and the players’ union.

Hockey Canada also announced that Edmonton Oilers President Kevin Lowe will be general manager of Canada’s entry at the world championships in May in Sweden and Finland.

A spokesman for USA Hockey said its executives for the world tournament might not be named until April and Sochi executives probably won’t be named before autumn.

Burke was the general manager and Wilson the coach of the runner-up 2010 U.S. Olympic team, but can they work together again after Burke fired Wilson from the Maple Leafs job?

helene.elliott@latimes.com

twitter.com/helenenothelen


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