Marc Savard Takes The Helm As The Windsor Spitfires New Head Coach
Story By Matthew St. Amand
Photography Courtesy Windsor Spitfires
The wait is over. The 2021-22 OHL season is here and the Windsor Spitfires hit the ice backed by an experienced new bench boss: Stanley Cup winner, two-time NHL all-star, and former OHL star, Marc Savard. Taking over for former head coach, Trevor Letowski—who accepted an assistant coach position with the Montreal Canadiens—Marc is supported by assistant coach, Andy Delmore, and associate coach, Jerrod Smith. Before his arrival in Windsor, Marc spent the 2019-20 as an assistant coach with the St. Louis Blues.
“I bring leadership,” he says when asked about the tools he brings to the Spitfires. “The players know I’ve been through it. I have their ear, they’re listening. I played for a lot of coaches, had some great ones, and took something from each.”
It has been 17 months since the Spitfires last took to the ice before the league—and most of the world—was shut down due to the COVID-19 global pandemic. A long delay for fans, and an excruciating break for players who want to compete, hone their skills, and gain the attention of the NHL.
“There’s a real excitement to get back on the ice, playing,” Marc says. “We are looking to get back to as much normalcy as possible. I’m excited for the players. They all look great. They’re big kids, in great shape. They used the time off wisely, maintaining their fitness, working on skills. It’s amazing to see.”
The effects of the pandemic will reverberate through the season. Fans over the age of 12 are required to show proof of vaccination against the coronavirus to attend games. Also, the OHL schedule has teams limiting travel, staying closer to home, with an eye toward eliminating overnight stays for the near future.
“We’re going to stay out here in the west,” Marc says. “We won’t be going to Ottawa, or Kingston, or Oshawa for the time being. We are keeping it close to home for the sake of safety. It’s easier on the guys, though it’s tough playing the same teams over and over.”
But hockey is hockey, and some is better than none.
Born and raised in Ottawa, Marc Savard brings a wealth of hockey experience to the Windsor Spitfires. He enjoyed a stand-out career in the OHL, playing for the Oshawa Generals, beginning in 1993–94. In his second season, Marc scored a league- leading 139 points. In 1995, he was selected 91st overall by the New York Rangers in the NHL Entry Draft. He played two more seasons in the OHL, where he earned his second Eddie Powers Memorial Trophy, as the league’s leading scorer with 130 points in 1996–97. Marc added 27 points in 15 playoff games, leading the Generals to the 1997 J. Ross Robertson Cup and winning in the 1997 Memorial Cup.
Marc says it was only after winning the Memorial Cup in his last season with the Oshawa Generals, that he thought he had a genuine chance to enter the NHL.
“During my stint in Oshawa, we won the championship in my last season,” he recalls. “It was then that I really felt that if I got an opportunity I could do it.”
The New York Rangers assigned Marc to their American Hockey League (AHL) affiliate, the Hartford Wolfpack in 1997-98. There, he scored 74 points and was called up to play in 28 games for the Rangers during his rookie year.
“It was a bit of a culture shock, being 20 years old, playing in New York,” Marc recalls. “I wanted it and had an up-and-down first year. I finished the last 15 games with the Rangers.”
After a season in New York, Marc was traded to the Calgary Flames, where he played from 1999-2002. He found his way in the 2000–01 season, finishing second in team scoring with 65 points, behind Jarome Iginla.
“It took me a while to get a great opportunity,” Marc says. “It was a roller coaster my first season in New York, and then my second NHL season in Calgary, I got an opportunity to contribute each night.”
It was not until Marc moved to the Atlanta Thrashers in 2002 to 2006, that he came into his own.
“That’s where Bob Hartley gave me an opportunity,” Marc remembers. “I had more minutes, going from 13 minutes a night to 20. That was a big jump. One I was ready to make.”
He rose to the occasion. Playing with superstar wingers Dany Heatley and Ilya Kovalchuk, Marc became a point-per-game player and recorded 52 points in 45 games during an injury shortened 2003–04 season.
According to ESPN: “At the end of his breakthrough season, Savard became an unrestricted free agent and signed with the Boston Bruins to a four-year, $20 million contract on July 1, 2006.”
By the time of announcing his retirement on January 22, 2018, Marc had climbed Mount Olympus in the world of professional hockey: playing in two NHL all-star games (2008 and 2009), and winning the Stanley Cup with the Boston Bruins in 2011.
And he brings all of that knowledge and experience to the Spitfire bench.
Marc readily acknowledges of his colleagues: “We’ve got a great staff around me: Jerrod Smith and Andy Delmore. Our goal is not only to win games, but to help these players get to the next level. I’m an open door guy, communication is always there.”
Steve Bell, the Voice of the Windsor Spitfires, looks forward to the coming season.
“The Spitfires are a good skating team,” Steve observes. “Like most coaches these days, Marc preaches a high tempo game. But you can never forget that you have to take care of your own end!”
Indeed, Marc ran the power play while behind the St. Louis Blues’ bench. According to Thehockeywriters.com: “They converted at 24.3%, which was not only third-best in the NHL in 2019-20 but the third-best in team history…” The Windsor Spitfires will benefit from that offensive mindset.
Beyond his duties as head coach of the Windsor Spitfires, Marc is a husband and father of two children. His son, 18 year old Tyler Savard, was 11th-round pick of the Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds in 2019. If the schedule opens up later in the season, the Spitfires will face-off against the Greyhounds.
Marc also created Project 91: “The organization raises money for concussion awareness and research,” he explains. It’s a cause that hits close to home. Marc suffered two concussions in ten months during the 2010-11 season. Project 91 raises money through the sale of apparel, donating a portion of all sales to Toronto Western Hospital (Concussion Research).
Regarding the upcoming season, Marc reflects: “It’s been a long year. These players haven’t played in a long time, a little patience. They’re working hard. I think the fans will be pleased.”