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Blackhawks' Quenneville looks to add name to Chicago coaching pantheon

CHICAGO - Phil Jackson accomplished the feat while coaching the Chicago Bulls. So did former Bears boss Mike Ditka and Blackhawks coach Mike Keenan.

CHICAGO - Phil Jackson accomplished the feat while coaching the Chicago Bulls.

So did former Bears boss Mike Ditka and Blackhawks coach Mike Keenan.

Add current Blackhawks skipper Joel Quenneville to the list of Chicago coaches who have taken teams to back-to-back appearances in the conference finals.

But the Flyers hope Quenneville doesn't do something Keenan couldn't: bring the Stanley Cup back to the Windy City for the first time since 1961. Game 1 of the best-of-seven Stanley Cup Finals will begin at 8 p.m. Saturday here at the United Center.

Who would have envisioned Quenneville's having a chance to top Keenan in Chicago lore?

Back in October 2008 - five games into the season - he was named the head coach of a team that had fallen on hard times.

The Hawks had missed the NHL playoffs in nine of the 10 previous seasons played. (The 2004-05 season was canceled because of the lockout.)

"We talk about a lot of leadership in the dressing room, what the players can bring, but he's our leader," said forward Patrick Sharp, a former Flyer who's been in Chicago for 41/2 seasons. "He's confident behind the bench. He's a smart hockey guy. He knows how to figure out matchups and instill confidence in his players."

The gruff Quenneville is one of only three men in the history of the NHL to have played in and coached 800 or more games - the others are Bob Pulford and Jacques Lemaire - and he won the 2000 Jack Adams Trophy with St. Louis as the league's top coach.

He helped Colorado win the 1996 Stanley Cup as an assistant coach before accepting his first NHL head coaching job with St. Louis that same year. He was fired by the Blues midway through the 2003-04 season but remains the winningest coach in team history.

He was head coach in Colorado for three seasons, from 2005 through 20008.

Through it all, Quenneville, an NHL defenseman for 13 seasons, has kept a confidence that everything will work out. Just one look at his trademark scowl from behind the Hawks' bench - nostrils flaring, eyes piercing - and it's obvious that he oozes intensity. He also demands accountability.

"With Joel, if you take a dumb penalty or make a couple of mistakes, he's not afraid to sit you down and things like that," right winger Patrick Kane said. "He makes every shift worth it out there for you."

The coach won't take the credit for the Blackhawks' resurrection. He'll tell anyone, "It's all about the team. It's not about me" the second he hears someone praising him.

"We got a nice team in a lot of ways," Quenneville said. "We can win different ways, different styles."

His players bought into keeping things simple and knowing their roles - and into understanding that his word is law.

Before joining the Blackhawks as a scout in September 2008, Quenneville had advanced as far as the conference finals during coaching stops in St. Louis and Colorado.

And while he had success at his previous stops, coaching in Chicago may be more enjoyable for Quenneville, who grew up a Blackhawks fan in Windsor, Ontario.

The fact that he grew up a Chicago fan in Windsor requires some explaining. That's the equivalent of someone in Philadelphia rooting for the New York Rangers.

"Yup, I was one of the oddballs in the city," he said. "Everybody was either a Canadiens fan or a Red Wings fan or a Leafs fan. I was probably the only Blackhawks fan.

"I guess I had to be representative of the street hockey. Chicago got some representation."

The representation Quenneville is providing this season may be remembered by Blackhawks fans for years to come.

Then again, he'll tell you it's not about him.

"Well, we should all be fortunate about the opportunity we have here, being in Chicago with the Blackhawks organization," he said. "The team, the foundation, is in a great spot [with] some core young players that are going to have special careers."