Pete DeBoer was born to be a hockey coach. Early in his 20s, however, it didn’t look like that dream was going to be realized.
Almost 30 years ago, DeBoer was faced with a critical decision: continue his career and track to becoming a lawyer, or take a pay cut and coach junior hockey.
Clearly he made the right choice.
Since pursuing coaching, DeBoer has gone on to coach five different NHL franchises and appear in two Stanley Cup Finals. His lengthy resume and ability to achieve success on the biggest stages make him one of the more well-rounded and highest respected coaches in today’s game.
In 1995, DeBoer forfeited his upcoming position at a criminal law firm and became the head coach of the Detroit Whalers. This would kick off a 13-year coaching career in the OHL, where DeBoer saw unprecedented success. One of the most legendary careers in OHL history had DeBoer win two OHL Championships, claim three Coach of the Year awards, and win the Memorial Cup in 2003.
In 2008, the Florida Panthers took notice of DeBoer’s success and hired him to be their Head Coach. Since then, DeBoer has coached the New Jersey Devils, San Jose Sharks, Vegas Golden Knights, and he is the current Head Coach of the Dallas Stars. DeBoer led both the Devils and the Sharks to the Stanley Cup Finals during his time behind the bench and has recorded eight playoff appearances in his 16-year NHL career.
DeBoer is known for his strong defensive systems, where he places an emphasis on his forwards having more defensive responsibility and limiting opponents’ chances. This past season the Stars finished third in the NHL in goals allowed, and in the 2020-2021 season, DeBoer’s Golden Knights allowed the least amount of goals in the entire league. In turn, DeBoer asks for his defensemen to be more involved offensively and emphasizes getting pucks to the net and scoring “gritty” goals.
A large part of DeBoer’s offensive system relies on defensemen getting shots from the point and creating havoc in front of the net. No player has fit this system better than Joe Pavelski, whom DeBoer coached for five years in San Jose and then this past season in Dallas. Pavelski epitomizes DeBoer’s philosophy of screening goalies, cleaning up rebounds, and creating pressure in front of the net.
While in San Jose, DeBoer also demonstrated his ability to develop and grow young talent. Timo Meier, Tomas Hertl, and Kevin Lebanc all had breakout years under DeBoer and have seen success spanning multiple seasons.
Another unique piece of DeBoer’s resume is his ability to get his teams prepared for big games. In his career, DeBoer has posted an incredible 7-0 record in Game 7s during the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Similar to how some players are said to have the “clutch gene,” many would say that DeBoer has it as well.
DeBoer’s ability to translate his system from team to team throughout his career and accumulate wins is unique. Along with his personal coaching style and philosophy, DeBoer also realizes the importance of adapting to a team’s personnel and putting the players in the best possible position to succeed.
His track record in developing players along with the success of his teams at the highest level has cemented DeBoer as one of the best coaches in hockey with many years still in front of him.