Berube maintains his coaching career is far from over

Craig Berube

       They say home is where the heart is and for Craig Berube there was no doubt he would be headed back to eastern Pennsylvania as soon as his tenure as head coach of the St. Louis Blues had ended.

      The ex-Flyers player and head coach wanted to return to be closer to his three children from his first marriage and also be around the hockey team which he truly cares about.

      Besides, his work was done in St. Louis. He had taken the Blues on a Cinderella ride all the way to their first Stanley Cup in 2019 in his first season there and the shelf life of an NHL coach is usually about four or five years anyway.

      Now he has a little time to relax and reflect before tossing his hat back into the NHL coaching ring. At age 58, “Chief” makes it clear he wants to resume working, perhaps as early as next season, and believes he still has more to achieve.

      “I’m going to wait for an NHL job and see what happens,” he said. “It doesn’t matter where. I’m sure I have a shot (for next season). It all boils down to talking to a team, talking to the GM, the ownership. If they believe in your message, if they like what you’re saying. In the interview process, if it’s a good fit for me and a good fit for them, probably something will get done.”

      It would be safe to say in different circumstances Berube might even daydream about a return to the Flyers’ helm if not for the fact current coach John Tortorella still has two-plus years left on a deal which pays him $4 million per season.

      Berube became only the third “interim” coach to win the Stanley Cup after taking over for the fired Mike Yeo in November, 2018.

      However, things didn’t get off to such a great start. By Jan. 1, 2019, the Blues had sunk in the standings to a mark of 15-18-4 and it looked like another lost season.

      Then, suddenly, the players started to buy in. They went on a crazy 30-10-5 run the rest of the way, including a franchise-record 11-game winning streak.

      The Blues continued their underdog success throughout the playoffs and finally finished off the favored Boston Bruins in a seven-game Final series, with the 4-3 clincher coming in Beantown.

      That was quite a victory parade through the streets of St. Louis and there are plenty of photographs and videos of Berube proudly showing off Lord Stanley’s trophy.

      “We had a great run,” Berube said. “We had a lot of good guys that I coached with and player-wise, it was a great group (including ex-Flyer Brayden Schenn). The fans and the people in St. Louis are awesome. I mean that’s a great sports town.

      “People that don’t know St. Louis don’t understand the passion that they have there for sports and the Blues. I was treated great. I have nothing bad to say about the place. You get fired in this game because that’s the way it goes. Things go sour. It (the message) gets old sometimes. You have to move on and that’s part of the game. Step back, accept it and get ready to move on to the next challenge.”

      A smile came to his face as he discussed the opportunity to be around his kids – sons Jake (24), Nashota (15) and daughter Charlotte (15) – whom he shares with former wife, Rebecca Bricker. Charlotte and Nashota are twins.

      There’s been some lost time from the past five years to make up.

      “It’s been great, just being around them this time of year,” Berube said. “Being around them, being there for them, like with school, helping them out that way. I missed them during the year because they weren’t with me in St. Louis. It’s nice to be around and be involved.”

      Craig and his wife, Dominique, have established a home in New Hope, Bucks County.

      “I was in the Philadelphia area for a long time as a player (starting in 1986) and a coach,” he said. “New Hope is a great place to live. It has so much to offer. The schools are great, there’s plenty to do, the culture, the (Delaware) river. You can’t find a better spot in my opinion.”

      In the summers you can find him playing as a member of the elite golf facility Lookaway in Buckingham.

      As for the Flyers, Berube has been attending some games at the Wells Fargo Center recently just to keep a sense of what’s going on in the NHL.

      Back in the day, they didn’t come any more competitive than Berube, a person of First Nations heritage from Calahoo, Alberta, Canada. The 6-foot-1, 210-pound left wing was known for his toughness as an enforcer. In seven seasons with the Flyers (and a total of 10 more with Washington, the New York Islanders, Toronto and Calgary), Berube amassed an amazing 3,149 penalty minutes in 1,054 games.

      If that doesn’t earn one respect around professional hockey, probably nothing will.

      His first head coaching tenure, that with the Flyers from 2013-15, didn’t end all that well but he showed his true colors in Missouri. Now, with 543 NHL games under his belt, he sports a highly respectable record of 281-190-72.

      Berube likes what the current Flyers are doing with their rebuild.

      “I love watching them, I love the way they’re playing,” he said. “They’re playing some real good hockey. They play with emotion, with jam every night. That’s the Flyers’ way.”

      Berube might be rooting a little extra hard because his good pal, Keith Jones, is the team’s new president of hockey operations.

      “It’s great to see him and (GM) Danny Briere doing a fine job,” Berube said. “And coach John Tortorella. Just bringing the Flyer way back, the culture. It’s great to see them doing as well as they are. I’m very happy for them.”

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About Wayne Fish 2426 Articles
Wayne Fish has been covering the Flyers since 1976, a stint which includes 18 Stanley Cup Finals, four Winter Olympics and numerous other international events.