Craig Berube of the Philadelphia Flyers is making history. He is one of only two Native American head coaches in the NHL.
“I started out coaching with the Philadelphia Phantoms and I didn’t know if I thought about being a head coach,” said Berube (Cree). “Here I am doing it now and it is pretty exciting.”
Berube, 47, was named the head coach of the Flyers on October 7, just three games into the season. Berube replaced Peter Laviolette, who was relieved of his duties, according to NHL.com.
Berube grew up in Calahoo, Alberta playing hockey and baseball. He says his hometown was very small, with only a general store, church, skating arena and baseball field.
“Being from a small town, they did a good job of organizing teams and all that stuff,” he says. “My dad and uncles were a big part of that – they really got me into hockey. I started playing junior hockey when I was 14 and moved up from there. I played with a lot of Native kids growing up.”
At the age of 20, Berube signed a professional contract with the Hershey Bears, an AHL team. Prior to that, he played on five WHL teams from 1982-1986. In 1986, he first joined the Philadelphia Flyers as a free agent.
Berube registered 61 goals and 98 assists for 159 points and 3,149 penalty minutes in 1,054 career regular season games in the NHL. He played 18 seasons, suiting up for the Toronto Maple Leafs, Calgary Flames, Washington Capitals and the New York Islanders in addition to his seven seasons with the Flyers.
His 3,149 penalty minutes are ranked seventh on the NHL’s All-Time List and his 1,138 penalty minutes with the Flyers is ranked ninth on the Flyers’ All-Time List, according to the Flyers’ website.
In 2003, Berube joined the Philadelphia Phantoms organization, the Flyers’ AHL affiliate, after signing as a free agent. In 2004, he earned a spot on the team and also served as an assistant coach. He was the assistant coach for three seasons. During the 2007-2008 season, as head coach of the Phantoms, Berube posted a 49-29-5-3 record and led the team to a second-place finish in the East Division.
Berube has been at the helm of the Flyers for almost two months now, and is working to turn things around. When he took the job, the Flyers were 0-3. As of November 25, the Flyers are 10-10-2 and ranked eleventh in the Eastern Conference.“It has been up and down,” he says. “Overall, we are getting to where we want to be. It takes time.”
Flyers Assistant Coach Ian Laperriere says Berube is a “no-nonsense kind of guy,” who lets you know exactly where you stand with him. Laperriere thinks Berube’s off to a great start with the Flyers.
“I think the team’s confidence was shattered and I am trying to rebuild it,” Berube says. “All-in-all, it is headed in the right direction.”