The Flyers Alumni Association sends our heartfelt condolences to the family of Vic Stasiuk, who passed away on May 8, 2023, a few weeks shy of his 94th birthday. A member of the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame and the second head coach in Philadelphia Flyers history (1969-70 to 1970-71 seasons), Stasiuk was a hard-nosed, old-school coach and a veteran of 745 NHL games as a player for the Chicago Black Hawks, Detroit Red Wings and Boston Bruins.
While with the Red Wings, Stasiuk forged a friendship with Gordie Howe. In addition to Hockey Hall of Fame members Howe, Ted Lindsay, Alex Delvecchio, and Red Kelly, the Stanley Cup champion 1954-55 Red Wings roster included the likes of future Philadelphia Flyers coaches Stasiuk, Keith Allen and Bill Dineen. As a member of the Bruins, Stasiuk joined with John Buycyk and Bronco Horvath on the high-scoring “Uke Line” (for their common Ukrainian heritage). In 1959-60, Stasiuk established career highs with 29 goals, 68 points and 121 penalty minutes in 69 games played.
Starting in 1963, Stasiuk gradually turned his attention from playing to coaching. After several years as a minor league player/coach, Stasiuk hung up his skates to focus solely on coaching. After the NHL added the Philadelphia Flyers as an expansion franchise in 1967, Stasiuk became the coach of their American Hockey League affiliate, the Quebec Aces. He steered the team to the Calder Cup Finals in both 1967-68 and 1968-69.
When inaugural Flyers coach Keith Allen replaced Bud Poile as Philadelphia’s general manager in the 1969 offseason, Stasiuk was promoted from the Aces’ coach to the coach of the NHL parent team. His two-year tenure as Flyers coach was not particularly successful from a win-loss record standpoint, but was both eventful and colorful.
“Vic and I didn’t see eye-to-eye from a hockey standpoint,” recalled Flyers Hall of Fame defenseman Joe Watson. “He had a strange way of communicating. He’d tell us things like, ‘Check but don’t check’. None of us understood what he meant. He’d stand behind the bench, hollering, the whole game, and a lot of it didn’t make any sense. I fell out of favor with Vic and he took me out of the lineup. But he had success coaching at other levels. I also want to say that he was a good man off the ice. Good sense of humor.”
Among the most colorful stories from Stasiuk’s two-season tenure in Philadelphia was the time he got in a vehement argument with referee Bill Friday over a call that went in the Flyers’ favor. Stasiuk was peeved that Friday called a penalty on a play in which the coach believed rookie forward Serge Bernier should have done a better job at battling through a check.
“Dammit, Billy! I’ve been trying to toughen up that kid since camp and you just set me back three months!” Stasiuk is reputed to have said.
After coaching the Flyers, Stasiuk had short stints behind the benches of the California Seals (1971-72) and Vancouver Canucks (1972-73). Subsequently, he coached the Denver Spurs of the Western Hockey League and then coached at the junior hockey level with the Taber Golden Suns and the Medicine Hat Tigers. While with Medicine Hat, he coached future NHL forward and, later, NHL general manager Jim Nill.
“Vic believed in toughness, and he was a tough coach,” Nill recalled in 2015. “But he also cared about his players.”
In 2009, Stasiuk was inducted into the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame. He was honored and humbled to receive the recognition, but he jokingly chided the selection committee for waiting so long to select him for the honor.
“It’s a little late,” Stasiuk said with a chuckle. “I’m 81 now.”