In a move that shocked the hockey world, the Flyers announced Dave Hakstol was hired on Monday to be the 19th head coach in team history, ending a 31-day coaching search after Craig Berube was fired in April.
Hakstol, 46, spent the last 11 seasons as head coach at the University of North Dakota. While at North Dakota, Hakstol coached Ron Hextall's son, Brett, who now plays for the Flyers' AHL affiliate in Lehigh Valley.
According to College Hockey Inc., Hakstol is the first head coach to jump directly from the NCAA to NHL since "Badger" Bob Johnson went from the University of Wisconsin to the Calgary Flames in 1982. Previously, Ned Harkness climbed from Cornell to the Red Wings (1970). "Miracle on Ice" coach Herb Brooks also ascended to the New York Rangers' bench in 1981 from the University of Minnesota, but a year with Team USA and quick stop in Davos, Switzerland, was in the middle.
This is a move few saw coming. In fact, Hakstol was rarely mentioned as a possibility to fill the Flyers' vacancy. He has no NHL experience. Prior to being promoted at North Dakota, he spent 4 years as an associate coach at the school.
"Dave brings a wealth of head coaching experience and success to the Philadelphia Flyers organization," Hextall said in a statement. "He's a proven winner and we are pleased to have him become part of the Flyers family."
At North Dakota, Hakstol (pronounced "Hack-stole") compiled a record of 289-143-43 (.654), reaching the 2015 Frozen Four, but never captured a national championship. North Dakota qualified for the NCAA tournament in each of Hakstol's 11 seasons and reached the Frozen Four seven times, the most of any program during that span.
Some of Hakstol's former players include Jonathan Toews, Matt Greene, T.J. Oshie, Travis Zajac, Drew Staffordand current Flyer Chris VandeVelde. Toews and Greene have gone on to win Stanley Cups.
"I am extremely excited to be named the Philadelphia Flyers new head coach," Hakstol said in a statement. "Through the process here with Ron (Hextall) and everybody in the Flyers organization, I have gained even more an understanding of the history and tradition of this organization and I'm very proud to become part of the Philadelphia Flyers today."
The Drayton Valley, Alberta, Canada native spent 5 seasons playing in the IHL from 1991-1996. At the very least, Hakstol's hiring is a bold move, a fresh approach for an organization which sorely needed an outside voice.
All along, many believed Mike Babcock could be that outside voice. The Flyers presumably waited this long to see whether Babcock would be staying or leaving Detroit. Either Babcock notified Hextall of his decision after returning home from Prague on Sunday, or Hextall decided to go in a completely different direction.
On Twitter: @frank_seravalli