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Wild Names Lemaire Head Coach
By Laura McCallum
June 19, 2000
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The Minnesota Wild have named Hall of Famer Jacques Lemaire as its first head coach. Lemaire coached the New Jersey Devils to the Stanley Cup championship in 1995, and won eight Stanley Cups as a forward with the Montreal Canadiens. Lemaire is charged with building the expansion hockey franchise into a winning team.

Wild Executive Vice President Doug Risebrough (left) presents a team jacket to new coach Jacques Lemaire (right).
Photo credit: Eric Ryan
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54-YEAR-OLD JACQUES LEMAIRE left the New Jersey Devils two years ago, and has been a consultant to the Montreal Canadiens since then. He says he's eager to return to coaching, and compares leading a new franchise to starting a new life. Lemaire says he got other offers, but picked the Minnesota Wild largely because of General Manager Doug Risebrough - his former teammate in Montreal.

"Before taking this job, it was very important to me to know the GM, and because I played with Dougie, because we had success in the team we were with, because we won, I feel that he knows as much as I do in what to do to bring a team to the highest level," said Lemaire.

Risebrough says Lemaire is a coach who can work with draft picks, teaching them skills on the ice and team play. The Wild is slated to pick 35 new players in this weekend's expansion and entry drafts. Risebrough says he didn't even interview any other potential coaches, once he got permission from the Montreal Canadiens to pursue Lemaire.

"We spent a day together at Jacques' place, and I got inspired listening him talk about coaching and handling players and our own specific situation of how do we get through this and start to build a winner in situations where there's not going to be a lot of winning to start off with," said Risebrough.

Lemaire admits he doesn't like to lose; he's one of only 14 people to win the Stanley Cup as both a player and a head coach, and he racked up 247 regular season wins, 159 losses and 69 ties during his seven seasons as a head coach.

Hear the entire news conference announcing the hiring of Jacques Lemaire as head coach of the Minnesota Wild. Click here.
But Lemaire says losing is inevitable with an expansion team. "I know that I will have to be patient, the fans will have to be patient, but I'm telling you, we're going to win our share of games."

The Wild wouldn't release terms of Lemaire's multi-year contract, but published reports indicate he will earn $800,000 a year for three years. Former Minnesota North Stars player, coach and General Manager Lou Nanne played against Lemaire years ago, and describes him as a intense player, and a good judge of talent as a coach. Nanne called Lemaire a superb choice for an expansion team.

"He's also the fellow that plays a very defensive style, and when you look at the Wild's selections they make in the expansion draft, they're not going to get a lot of goal scorers, they're just not available," said Nanne. "So you need to play a tight style, and he'll be the type of individual that can make the games competitive by getting his team to play very, very tight defensively."

But Lemaire's defensive style appears to have led to his two-year hiatus from coaching. Lemaire resigned from the New Jersey Devils after a two-year slide that followed the Stanley Cup season. The Devils failed to make the playoffs in 1997 and the team was ousted in the first round of the playoffs in 1998. The Wild begins its inaugural season in October.