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BRAMPTON, Ont. – Stan Butler, the Brampton Battalion’s director of hockey operations and head coach, became part of an illustrious group Tuesday night, being inducted into the Brampton Sports Hall of Fame.
“When I found out that I was going to be inducted, my initial response was that I was shocked,” said Butler, who joins Battalion owner and governor Scott Abbott and former players Cody Hodgson and Matt Duchene as members of the Hall.
Butler, the only head coach in the club’s history, was recognized in the builders category. His 14 seasons on the Battalion bench make him the longest-tenured coach in the Ontario Hockey League.
The ceremony at the Rose Theatre numbered a roster of six inductees. Andrew Cassels and Alexander Graham received induction into the athletes category, while Bob Savage joined the veterans category and Brampton Excelsiors minor lacrosse teams of 1955-59 were honoured in the teams category. Joining Butler in the builders category was Ziggy Musial.
“I’m really honoured to get this opportunity and be in a special group with all these great people,” said Butler, a 56-year-old native of East York, Ont. “It’s one of those things that when it happens you really appreciate it.”
After the unveiling of a portrait of Butler, a video was played featuring congratulatory messages from CBC play-by-play man Chris Cuthbert, former Battalion stars Hodgson and Jason Spezza and Sidney Crosby of the National Hockey League’s Pittsburgh Penguins.
“Watching that video was a little bit overwhelming,” allowed Butler. “I was very pleased and delighted to see that those guys would take time out of their busy days to do that.”
Butler has compiled a won-lost-tied record of 504-515-65 in 1,084 OHL games, ranking him fourth all-time in games and seventh in wins. His 504 victories rank second among active OHL coaches behind George Burnett of the Belleville Bulls at 517.
“When I came to Brampton 14 years ago to start a new OHL franchise, I did not ever envision myself standing up here tonight,” Butler said in his post-induction speech.
He actually joined the Battalion a year in advance of its inaugural season in 1998-99. In 952 games with the club, Butler has a record of 434-466-52.
“A lot of people along the way have helped me to reach this accomplishment, but it all starts with working for good people like Scott Abbott. It’s taken a lot of time and effort, and obviously you never get the amount of time necessary to achieve things like this if you don’t get those types of opportunities from people like him.”
Butler was credited with his 1,000th OHL game on Feb. 10, 2011, a 3-1 victory over the visiting Oshawa Generals. He reached the 500-win plateau on Feb. 26 with a 3-1 home-ice win over the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds.
When asked for his most memorable moment with the Battalion, Butler cited a pair.
“For me there are two things that really stand out. The first was the initial night when we started the team, got the ball rolling and played in our first game. That first game we ever played as an organization was quite an honour and a great memory.
“The second was obviously when we won the 2009 Eastern Conference championship in our own rink. It was a packed arena, and we came back to beat Belleville by scoring three goals in the third period to win that game. That was a pretty special moment too.”
Butler began his coaching career with the Wexford Raiders in 1985, leading peewee, bantam and midget teams to four city and three provincial championships. In 1989, he was named the Canadian Amateur Hockey Association’s coach of the year. Throughout the next five seasons, holding the reins of the Wexford Raiders of the Metro Junior Hockey League, he led the team to five division titles and four league championships.
He started his major junior coaching career with Oshawa in 1994, setting a Canadian Hockey League record with 10 players selected in the 1995 NHL Entry Draft. After two seasons with the Generals, he coached the Prince George Cougars of the Western Hockey League in 1996-97.
“Throughout the years I’ve been lucky enough to work with talented coaches who have helped develop my coaching strategy and philosophy,” Butler said in his speech.
With a CHL record of 531-553-70 in 1,154 games, Butler reached the 1,000-game CHL milestone on Jan. 31, 2010, in a 4-3 loss via shootout to the visiting Sudbury Wolves. While coaching in his 17th CHL season, he earned his 500th victory in a 4-1 win over the host Ottawa 67’s last Oct. 14.
Butler served as an assistant coach to Tom Renney with Canada’s silver medal-winning team at the 1999 World Junior Championship at Winnipeg and was named head coach of the Canadian national junior team for the 2001 and 2002 tournaments, winning bronze in Russia and silver in the Czech Republic respectively. He is one of three men to have coached the Canadian juniors in consecutive years since the Program of Excellence debuted in 1982.
“I never thought I would get to this point in my career because I don’t think you ever look at hockey that way,” said Butler. “It’s just an honour to be here, and that’s what is really important.”