June 11, 2010

Bobby Kromm, 82

One day after his 82nd birthday, Bobby Kromm has died.

Kromm is not a name modern fans may know. He was the NHL's Coach of the Year back in 1978 after revitalizing the horrendous Detroit Red Wings. Otherwise he may be best known as the father of Rich Kromm, a speedy winger who played over 370 games with the Calgary Flames and New York Islanders in the 1980s.

History tends to forget Kromm's contributions, at least outside of British Columbia. The Calgary born Kromm moved to BC Kootenays and starred and later coached the Trail Smoke Eaters. He was the coach when the Smokies lost to Chatham in the Allan Cup final in 1960, but also when Trail won the amateur championship of Canada the following year. The team travelled to Geneva in 1961 and knocked off the Soviets and the rest of the world to become the last amateur Canadian team to win the World Championships. He would later coach in Nelson before moving on to the pro ranks, capping his British Columbia career. He would later be inducted into the BC Sports Hall of Fame.

Kromm went on to coach in the minor pro leagues for years, most notably with the Chicago Blackhawks' farm team in Dallas where he twice won CHL championships and made the final two other times. He stayed buried in Dallas for nearly a decade, earning top coach honors in 1972, as the Blackhawks promised him one day he would coach in the NHL. Kromm even turned down offers form the Atlanta Flames and Washington Capitals to be loyal to the Chicago organization that never fulfilled its promise to promote him.

In 1975 Kromm jumped to the World Hockey Association and became coach of Bobby Hull's Winnipeg Jets. In a dream season Kromm captured the Avco Cup and became the championship coach in his first year in the major leagues. He even outdistanced Jacques Demers as WHA coach of the year.

He would coach the Jets for one more year before taking the job in Detroit. The Jets actually wanted to give Kromm their general manager job, too, but the fiercely loyal Kromm refused to take Rudy Pilous' job. Pilous was the man who had hired Kromm, and Kromm refused to take his job when the Jets fired him.

Kromm meanwhile used an escape clause in his contract to jump to Detroit. The Wings finished second in 1978 and Kromm was voted coach of the year, with Don Cherry at Boston second in the balloting and Scotty Bowman at Montreal third. The Wings not only made the playoffs, but escaped the first round by beating Atlanta before bowing out to the defending Stanley Cup champions from Montreal.

Kromm's early success with the Wings was short-lived. The Wings floundered and missed the playoffs in each of the next two years. He was fired in March 1980, replaced by the legendary Ted Lindsay.

Even though he was coach of the year in three professional leagues including the WHA and NHL, his coaching days end on that day.  "I guess in one year I lost my brains," he told the media on the day he was fired.

Not wanting to relocate his children yet again, he remained in Michigan, taking a job in the automotive industry and residing in Livonia before retiring for good. He continued to run summertime hockey schools back in Trail.

He died of colon cancer on June 11th, 2010 at the age 82 years old.

1 comment:

napoliway said...

Bobby was a gentleman with a common touch. Aside from being a hockey great, he was a good and decent man who loved ordinary people. I will always remember this quality about him.