Terrier Coaches Reach 1000 Games Coached

Story courtesy Ryan Simpson (Portageonline.com)

Up until this past weekend, only three people in history had been the head coach of an MJHL team for 1000 games. Now, Terrier head coach and general manager Blake Spiller has made that list four.

Sunday night was Spiller’s 1000th behind the bench and his team made it even more special by knocking off the top team in the league, the Steinbach Pistons. Unlike the other coaches on the list, all of Spiller’s games have been with the same team. Much of the staff has been the same as well. Paul Harland was also recognized as it was his 1000th game as an assistant coach. Spiller says being with many of the same people is one thing that has kept him going.

“With people like Paul and Jimmy (Tkachuk), it’s gone fairly quick. We’ve had some success together, so it has been fun for us. I still enjoy coming to the rink and that says a lot about the people that we work with. I think having a familiarity with all the local people involved. There are people like Geno (Romanow) and Frank Harding who were around much longer in other roles for us, way more than 40 years. So when you think of that, this doesn’t seem like much.”

Spiller first came on as an Assistant Coach with the team in the 2001/2002 season and spent five seasons in that role before taking over from Don MacGillivray in 2006. It took only two seasons for Spiller to guide the squad to a league championship and they haven’t looked back since. The team has won 8 of the last 14 league championships with Spiller behind the bench to go along with some Anavet Cups and a national championship in 2015. Spiller was also an assistant coach in 2005 when the team went to the national championships for the first time since 1973.

“Not very many organizations can say they’ve done that. So, that is a big highlight for sure” commented Spiller. “We’ve had some success with teams that weren’t the favorites going in too. So, those are always special years as well.”

Looking back, even Spiller is surprised by some of the team’s success.

“Paul and I talked probably a couple of weeks after the first season started. We both kind of said, hopefully, we last a year here. But it’s gone well and it just seems to have accumulated over time. It’s been a good ride so far.”

The ride has been so good that Spiller will soon reach another milestone.  He already owns the title of the most league championships as a head coach by a wide margin but will soon stand alone as the winningest regular season coach in history, as well. Currently, Doug Stokes is on top with 670 and Don MacGillivray has 669. Neither coach is in the league anymore. Going into the weekend, Spiller has 664 wins. Assuming the team has a loss or two along the way, it looks like he may break the record sometime in the new year. Should the team be perfect, the record would be broken December 20th in Niverville.

Most Games Coached in MJHL history

1. Don MacGillvray – 1234
2. Doug Stokes – 1226
3. Ken Pearson – 1072 (still active)
4. Blake Spiller – 1000 (still active)

Most Regular Season Wins by an MJHL Coach

1. Doug Stokes – 670
2. Don MacGillvray – 669
3. Blake Spiller – 664 (still active)

Most Turnbull Cup League Championships as a Head Coach

1Blake Spiller – 8 (2008, 2009, 2011, 2012, 2015, 2016, 2017, 2019) *** one as an assistant in 2005***
2. Walter Monson – 4 (1946, 1948, 1951,1952)
Several tied with three titles

Only three coaches in the MJHL have won the National Championship – Blake Spiller in 2015, George Dorman in 1974 with Selkirk and Muzz MacPherson with the Terriers in 1973. Portage la Prairie is the only community in Canada to have won the Memorial Cup, RBC Cup, and the Centennial Cup.