The Calgary Flames officially have a new head coach. Geoff Ward, who was previously an associate coach, has assumed duties as bench boss following one of the most tumultuous times in franchise history. Though he still has the interim tag attached to his title, Geoff Ward is 2-0-0 as a NHL head coach. Not too shabby.
It’s an impressive start, but it’s not necessarily surprising for the former Grade 5 elementary school teacher. Ward has seen success at every level he’s coached at. He’s coached all around the world, won awards and titles at almost every stop, and looks to be a great fit as a head coach in the NHL.
Ward started his coaching career with his hometown University of Waterloo Warriors in 1989. He served as an assistant coach for three years. In the regular OUAA season, his cumulative record was 51-12-3, and in the playoffs 7-8.
He reached the semifinals in the 1989-90 season, the finals in the 1990-91 season, and the quarterfinals in the 1991-92 season.
Mid-Western Junior Hockey League (MWJHL)
Following his three year stint in university hockey, Ward spent one year coaching the Waterloo Siskins in the MWJHL in 1994. The Siskins finished with a 30-17-1 record, won the MWJBHL championship, won the MWJHL championship, and won the Sutherland Cup as champions of the Greater Ontario Junior Hockey League (GOJHL). It was a banner year for the club.
Ontario Hockey League (OHL)
Ward then spent five seasons as a head coach in the OHL, four seasons with the Kitchener Rangers and one season with the Guelph Storm.
His cumulative record with the Rangers was 114-121-29, with his best season being a fifth place performance in the 1996-97 season where the Rangers lost in the semifinals.
His single season with the Storm saw the team post an impressive 44-22-2 record, and ended with a fourth place finish after losing the conference semifinals.
Ward has been involved with hockey in Germany for three seasons, starting with his first European coaching job with the EC Bad Nauheim in Germany’s second division.
He has also spent two years coaching in Germany’s top league, the Deutsche Eishockey Liga (DEL). His first assignmnet in the DEL came in the 2006-07 season where he coached the Iserlohn Roosters to an unspectacular 18-24 record.
His second round in the DEL was a different story. In 2014-15, he coached the Adler Mannheim to a 33-14 record. The team won the DEL championship that season, and Ward was named DEL coach of the year. It was his first major coaching award in professional hockey.
After a successful season in the DEL, the German national team called on Ward to serve as an assistant coach for their national team at four world championships from 2015-2018. He also served as an assistant coach for Germany during the Olympic Games Qualifying tournament in 2017. Germany did qualify for the Olympics in 2018 due in part to their performance in that tournament. Notable NHLers who were part of that team include Leon Draisaitl, Tobias Rieder, and Marcel Goc.
American Hockey League (AHL)
In the 2001-02 season, Ward served as an assistant coach under Claude Julien for the Hamilton Bulldogs in the AHL. Coincidentally, his time with the Bulldogs organization overlapped with current play-by-play announcer for the Flames, Derek Wills.
In 2002-03, Julien was hired mid-season as the head coach for the Montreal Canadiens, and Ward took over as head coach of the Bulldogs. The team finished with a 49-19-8 record, and went all the way to the finals before losing to the Houston Aeros. The Aeros were coached by current Los Angeles Kings coach and former Edmonton Oilers coach Todd McLellan. Ward was awarded the Louis A.R. Pieri Memorial Award as the AHL coach of the year that season.
Ward then served as the head coach for the AHL Toronto Roadrunners in 2003-04 and the Edmonton Roadrunners in 2004-05. His cumulative record as an AHL head coach was 83-80-13.
National Hockey League (NHL)
Ward broke into the NHL as a development coach for the Oilers in the 2005-06 season when the team won the Western Conference and lost in the Stanley Cup Finals to the Carolina Hurricanes.
He then moved to the Boston Bruins where he served as an assistant coach for seven seasons. He won the Stanley Cup with the team in 2011. Ward’s last season with the Bruins was the 2013-14 season, after which he spent one year coaching in the DEL as discussed earlier.
Ward moved back to the NHL in the 2015-16 season as an assistant coach for the New Jersey Devils. he was most notably responsible for the Devils’ powerplay, which finished in the top 10 for powerplay percentage in two of his three seasons in New Jersey.
In 2018, Ward was added to the Flames’ coaching staff as an associate coach under Bill Peters. He assumed head coaching responsibilities officially with the Flames on November 29th, but was the coach of record for the Flames’ game versus the Buffalo Sabres on November 27th.
Ward has been a successful coach at almost every level, especially at the professional ranks. He’s coached professionally in four different leagues spanning three countries and two continents. He’s won coach of the year honours in two of those leagues. He’s proven to be an effective powerplay coach. He’s served internationally for the German national team including in an important Olympics qualifying tourney.
This may be his first gig as a head coach in the NHL, but Ward is a seasoned coach and the future looks bright.