April 30, 2013 - Ontario Hockey League (OHL)
Toronto, ON - The Ontario Hockey League today announced that Plymouth Whalers Head Coach Mike Vellucci is the 2012-13 recipient of the Matt Leyden Trophy awarded annually to the OHL's Coach of the Year.
Vellucci guided the Whalers to their 12th division title in franchise history with a 42-17-5-4 record for 93 points. The 2012-13 West Division title marks his sixth in 12 years behind the bench for the Whalers who made the playoffs for a record 22nd consecutive season.
"I'm proud of our kids," said Vellucci. "They competed very hard and didn't give up. I believe in these guys and they believe in themselves. They're not quitters and they wanted to win a championship."
Vellucci earns Coach of the Year honours for the second time in his career winning previously in 2007, the same season the Whalers captured the Robertson Cup as OHL Champions. The 46-year-old from Farmington, Michigan, remains the only American-born coach to win the award. He currently has an all-time record of 440-278-40 for a .607 winning percentage and ranks 11th on the OHL's all-time wins list.
"He's been my coach for four years," said Whalers captain Colin MacDonald. "He can be tough, but he knows when to push guys. His results don't lie and he's continued to be a great coach year after year and always puts together successful teams. I'm really excited for him individually to win this award."
Vellucci becomes the tenth coach in OHL history to win the award for a second time. Previous multi-year award winners include Hockey Hall of Fame member Brian Kilrea of the Ottawa 67's who has won the award a record five times (1981, 1982, 1996, 1997, 2003). Dale Hunter has won the award three times behind the London Knights' bench including back-to-back honours in 2004-05 and most recently in 2010. Bert Templeton (Hamilton 1975 and North Bay 1994), Terry Crisp (Sault Ste. Marie 1983, 1985), George Burnett (Niagara Falls 1991, 1992), Gary Agnew (London 1993, 1998), Craig Hartsburg (Guelph 1995 and Sault Ste. Marie 2002), Peter DeBoer (Plymouth 1999, 2000), and Bob Boughner (Windsor 2008, 2009) have also each won the award twice. Greg Gilbert of the Saginaw Spirit, a finalist for the award again this season, was last year's recipient.
"He did a lot for me, personally," said Whalers alternate captain Stefan Noesen. "He believed in me when nobody else did. He's one of the best coaches who have ever worked in the league and you definitely learn a lot from him from start to finish. Mike always seems to know the little bits and pieces (that) people need to know in order to be successful. I think he knew right away (this season) that he had a great core group, and everyone got along. So he needed to find players that could fit the puzzle, but at the same time, get along with everyone."
The Matt Leyden Trophy is voted on by the member teams of the Ontario Hockey League. In a first round of balloting, teams vote for the top coaches, within their own conference. The top three nominees from both the Eastern and Western conferences are declared as finalists. A second round of voting is then conducted on a league wide basis where teams vote for any of the six finalists. At no time during the voting can a team vote for their own candidate. Coaches receive five points for a first place vote, three points for a second place vote and one point for a third place vote.
Vellucci finished with 45 points in the voting process ahead of George Burnett of the Belleville Bulls who received 39 voting points. D.J Smith of the Oshawa Generals finished in third place with 33 voting points.
The Matt Leyden Trophy has been awarded annually since 1972 in recognition of the contributions of Matt Leyden, past President of the Ontario Hockey Association from 1965-1967. The Oshawa native was honored as a lifetime member of the OHA in 1972.
Vellucci will be formally presented with the award at the 2012-13 OHL Awards Ceremony taking place Tuesday June 4 at the Hockey Hall of Fame in Toronto, and will also be the OHL's nominee for the Canadian Hockey League Coach of the Year.