May 11, 2015

Jack "Tex" Evans

Jack "Tex" Evans dedicated his entire life to the game of hockey.

Evans was born in Wales, but his family relocated to Drumheller, Alberta soon after his birth. Reportedly Jack never learned English until he started grade school. He never was one to say much, but he never out grew his careful, drawn out English. His accent was mistaken as southern, hence the nickname "Tex."

Jack was a lantern-jawed, no-nonsense defenseman in the Original Six era. Despite splitting his first six seasons between the New York Rangers and minor leagues, Evans totalled an impressive 752 career NHL games with the Rangers and Chicago Blackhawks. 

The fact that Evans had nearly 1000 penalty minutes and just 19 goals in his career tells you what kind of player he was. He excelled as a depth defenseman, never more so than in Chicago in 1961 where he teamed with Dollard St. Laurent on the second pairing as Chicago won the Stanley Cup.

Evans scored a key goal in the championship clinching game - his first goal of the season - but his biggest impact - literally and figuratively - came in the opening round against the five time Stanley Cup champion Montreal Canadiens. The Hawks finally ended the Canadiens incomparable dynasty, with Evans rocking Montreal's giant Jean Beliveau with a memorable and thunderous body check.

Even though he was a durable and imposing NHL defender for such a long period of time, that only marked about half of his incredibly lengthy career. He played over another 800 games in 14 seasons in the minor leagues before and after his NHL career. 

Evans naturally stepped behind the bench and became a coach after his playing days were over. It was not long before he returned the NHL as a head coach in California/Cleveland and later Hartford, where he enjoyed mild success.

Many of Evans' pupils went on to notable coaching careers themselves, including Dave Tippett, Joel Quenneville, Claude Julien, Alain Vigneault, and Doug Jarvis.

"Jack was a stoic man, very honest, methodical, an old-school guy," Tippett said. "Playing for him and later being his assistant coach was an eye-opener for me. He had this ability to have the right people on the ice at the right time.

"Jack Evans is probably the pro coach I talk the most about," Julien said. "He was unique in his way. I had so much respect for the guy. He was quiet and he would let you play, but he had a demeanour in that if you didn't do what he wanted to do, you knew you were in trouble. He didn't have to say anything. He had a great presence."

Jack Evans passed away in 1996 of prostate cancer.

No comments: