The fourth winningest coach in NHL history at the time of his Hockey Hall of Fame induction, Ken Hitchcock's outstanding career included stints with the Dallas Stars, Philadelphia Flyers, Columbus Blue Jackets, St. Louis Blues and Edmonton Oilers through 22 NHL seasons.
Born December 17, 1951 in Edmonton, Alberta, Ken Hitchcock began his coaching career at various levels of hockey in his hometown, which led to ten years behind the bench of a Midget AAA team. Through that time, he amassed an incredible record of 575 wins against just 69 losses. At the same time, he was also teaching fundamentals to girls learning to play hockey.
Prior to the 1984-85 season, the new owners of the Kamloops Blazers of the Western Hockey League hired Hitchcock to guide their team. He led the Blazers to four consecutive division titles as well as league titles in 1985–86 and 1989–90. Named the WHL Coach of the Year in 1987 and 1990 when he was also named the best coach in Canadian Major Junior Hockey. Hitchcock's Blazers twice went to the Memorial Cup tournament.
In 1990, Hitchcock joined the Philadelphia Flyers as an assistant coach and spent three seasons there before leaving to serve as head coach of the Kalamazoo Wings, the Dallas Stars' International Hockey League (IHL) franchise. In the midst of 1995-96, his third season with the team, which had been renamed the Michigan K-Wings, Hitchcock was offered to move up to the position of head coach with the Dallas Stars. In his first full season with Dallas, he led the team to a first-place finish atop of the NHL, claiming the Presidents' Trophy. In 1997-98, the Stars went to the Conference Final but lost to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Detroit Red Wings. Earlier that season, he had also been named a coach at the NHL All-Star Game, his first of three consecutive NHL All-Star Games.
During the 1998-99 NHL season, Hitchcock led the Stars to the franchise's best record and a second consecutive Presidents' Trophy. Dallas went on to defeat the Buffalo Sabres in the Stanley Cup Final. It was the only Stanley Cup championship Ken would win through his outstanding coaching career. The Stars again went to the Stanley Cup Final in 2000, but were defeated by the New Jersey Devils. Dallas went to the playoffs again in 2000-01 but lost in the Conference Semi-Final. Midway through the following season, Hitchcock was relieved of his position.
Hitchcock was hired in the off-season by the Philadelphia Flyers, his former employers, leading them to the Conference Semi-Final in his first season, 2002-03. In his second season, they finished first in the division and went to the Conference Final, but lost to the Tampa Bay Lightning.
After a challenging start in 2006-07, Ken Hitchcock was fired in October 2006. A month later, he was hired by the Columbus Blue Jackets. The club went to the playoffs for the first time in 2008-09, but he was released a year later during 2009-10.
On November 6, 2011, the St. Louis Blues hired Hitchcock, and by the end of that season, he was awarded the Jack Adams Award as the NHL’s Coach of the Year. The fledgling team turned around quickly under Hitchcock, finishing that year two points back of winning the Presidents' Trophy and had a record of 43-15-11. In 2015-16, the Blues went to the Conference Final. On May 31, 2016, Ken Hitchcock announced that he would retire from coaching at the end of the 2016-17 season. Yet, he was unable to finish that season when he was fired by St. Louis in February 2017.
The Dallas Stars hired Hitchcock for a second time in April 2017, but at the conclusion of the 2017-18 season, he announced his retirement. He came out of retirement in November 2018 when he was named head coach of the Edmonton Oilers. In May 2019, he was dismissed from his position.
At the time of his final game behind an NHL bench, Ken Hitchcock had coached 1,598 games and was the fourth winningest coach in NHL history with 849 games. His record stands as 849 wins, 534 losses, 88 ties and 127 overtime losses.
Internationally, Ken suited up for Hockey Canada's bench five times as an associate coach, twice as an assistant and twice as head coach. In 2002, 2006, 2010 and 2014, Hitchcock served as an associate coach for the Team Canada at the Olympics, winning gold three times. He was head coach for Canada at the 2008 and 2011 IIHF Ice Hockey Men's World Championship, winning silver in 2008, and was assistant coach at the tournament in 2002. At the IIHF World Junior Championship in 1988 Hitchcock was an assistant coach as Canada won gold. Named as an associate coach for Team Canada at the 2004 World Cup of Hockey, he once again was golden.
In 2019, Ken was named a recipient of the Order of Hockey in Canada and he added another honour in 2023 when he was inducted into the Builder Category of the Hockey Hall of Fame.