Former Chicago Wolves head coach John Anderson was inducted into the American Hockey League’s Hall of Fame on Monday morning — and his entertaining speech featured all of the ingredients that made him such a big winner during his 14 years as the leader of the Wolves.
Anderson shared credit for his success with his family and members of the Wolves organization — while telling great stories that either drew big laughs from the crowd at MGM Springfield or made them understand exactly how grateful he was for everyone he has met along the way.
The 61-year-old Anderson, who led the Wolves to four league championships, 12 playoff appearances and 624 wins during his 14 seasons in Chicago, was joined in the Hall of Fame Class of 2019 by Don Cherry, Murray Eaves and Brad Smyth.
“When (AHL president and CEO David Andrews) told me I was going to be inducted into the Hall of Fame, I was so proud and so very glad,” Anderson said. “And when I hung up the phone, my coaching brain started kicking in. What I mean by that is, when you become a coach, it’s hard to see other guys get awards when other people work just as hard.
“I didn’t want to be a bit of a hypocrite, so I thought about it a little bit more and I had to kick my ego aside. Because this accolade for me to be up here, it’s not about me. It’s about all of the people that touched my life in order for me to get here.”
During the portion of Anderson’s speech devoted to his 14 years with the Wolves — “they’re really the most integral part of my whole career in hockey” — among the people he thanked were franchise co-founders Don Levin and Buddy Meyers, former general manager Kevin Cheveldayoff (hired the same day as Anderson in 1997), director of hockey operations Gene Ubriaco, senior vice president of operations Courtney Mahoney, trainer Kevin Kacer, longtime equipment manager Craig Kogut, broadcasters Judd Sirott, Pat Foley, Jason Shaver and Billy Gardner and the nearly 600 players who competed for him.
Anderson earned his place in the Hall for his excellence as a coach and as a player. Prior to moving behind the bench, Anderson spent 17 years playing professionally. He played most of his career with the Toronto Maple Leafs and stacked up 282 goals in 814 NHL games, then he dominated the AHL during 1991-92 with the AHL’s New Haven Nighthawks. He piled up 41 goals, 54 assists and a +42 plus/minus rating in just 68 games while also serving as the team’s assistant coach. Anderson was rewarded with the Les Cunningham Award as the league’s most valuable player and also picked up the Fred T. Hunt Memorial Award for sportsmanship, determination and dedication to hockey.
— Darren Haydar (@dhaydar20) January 28, 2019
Congrats to @Chicago_Wolves coach John Anderson on his AHL HOF induction. He has certainly earned it. Can’t express enough how amazing of a coach and person he is. Very few people influenced my career as much as he did. Thank you Johnny. #rareair #playerscoach #welldeserved
— Brett Sterling (@bsterls) January 28, 2019
Anderson also made sure to thank his wife, Karen, and their children — Spencer, Jacob and Hannah — for sticking with him from place to place as he lived out his dream. He also thanked his parents for giving he and his two brothers plenty of opportunities to practice hockey when they were growing up in Toronto.
“My dad had a rink out back for me since I was 3 years old,” he said. “He even filled in a koi pond so the rink he made would be symmetrical in the corners. Then, every time I’d ever walk in the kitchen, my mom would be body-checking me so I had to go around her.
“My mom’s 86 years old now. I saw her last week and I said, ‘You have to stop doing it. I’m retired. You don’t have to do that any more.’ ”