EDMONTON - Dallas Eakins has often spoken about his mentor, the late Roger Neilson, so perhaps it was only fitting that for his first game as an NHL head coach, he chose to wear one of the Hall of Famer’s ties.
“I’ve been saving this tie for a long time, and Roger was known for his horrible ties. He didn’t put much thought into them,” said Eakins, on the Edmonton Oilers bench for the first regular-season game of 2013-14.
“Our friend Rob Campbell texted me last night and said, ‘the great thing about Roger’s ties is that they go equally bad with any suit., It will be an honour to wear it out there tonight.”
Eakins said he was more nervous playing his first NHL game than he was working his first game on the bench. He played his first as a member of the Winnipeg Jets against the San Jose Sharks in San Francisco’s Cow Palace.
“I think I was trembling when I played my first NHL game,” said the 46-year-old, who assumed the Oilers’ head-coaching job in June. “My partner that night was Mike Lolar. I was sitting next to him, and he said, ‘How many games have you played?’
“I said none. He went, ‘Oh, OK.”
A token gestureWhile Eakins wasn’t willing to reveal all the details of some of the goings-on inside the Oilers locker-room, he acknowledged he gave all the players a token that they are to keep with them at all times. It’s a motivational tool, much like the post-game award that is making its return to Edmonton.
Years ago, when Jason Smith was captain, the “player of the game” had to wear a Reggie Dunlop leather coat. More recently, the Boston Bruins presented their hero with an Army Ranger jacket, while the Calgary Flames used a hard hat.
“We have a thing going in the room that we’re united, that we’re always going to have something honest,” Eakins said of the token. “Everybody in that dressing room, and not only the players but the staff, will have it with them at all times. The challenge is to catch the other guy without it.
“I just let it be known that it would be a source of great disappointment (to be caught without it). If you can’t throw this in your pocket every day or have it on you, then how can we ask you to do the other things?”
Oilers name six alternate captainsSix Oilers will rotate games as alternate captains this season, working in pairs, in a rotation that is already in place.
Jordan Eberle, Taylor Hall, Ryan Nugent-Hopkins, Sam Gagner, Nick Schultz and Ryan Smyth were revealed on Tuesday morning as the players tagged to wear the alternate ‘A’ in 2013-14.
“We have such a good group of guys that deserve it,” Eakins said. “It was impossible to get it down to two guys.
“It’s nice when you have that problem.”
On Twitter: @jirelandEJ
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