George Kingston (MHKY | Coach)
NAME: George Kingston (Class of 2020-21)
SPORT: Men's hockey
YEARS ACTIVE: 1968-74, 1975-76, 1978-83, 1984-88
Five-time Canada West champion at Calgary
First-ever head coach of the San Jose Sharks
Led Canada to 1994 World Championship gold
Recipient of the Order of Hockey in Canada (2019)
One of the most influential coaches in Canada West history, George Kingston’s impact on the game of hockey spans far beyond his university roots.
The head coach of the Calgary Dinos for 16 years between 1968 and 1988, with a few stops outside of university hockey interspersed, Kingston helped establish the Dinos as one of the conference’s best with 245 career CW wins.
Kingston’s own foundation for hockey success came in large part from another coaching icon, Clare Drake.
After playing for Drake at the University of Alberta, Kingston embarked on his own journey in education and hockey, eventually leading to Calgary where he and his teams went toe-to-toe with one of the best.
“If you wanted to have a chance to be on the ice with him and his teams, then you had to really work hard at your program and the athletes respected that,” Kingston said of going up against Drake and the Golden Bears.
Quick to credit his players, Kingston’s combination of cutting edge coaching and a dedicated group of players was a perfect fit.
“It’s really a tribute to the athletes that started our program on the right foot and were on ice at 6 a.m. at the Foothills Arena. They built one of the premier programs,” Kingston said of his induction in the CW Hall of Fame, recalling those early days (and mornings) at Calgary.
“I’m just thrilled that this recognition is coming to me, but it’s really on behalf of the tremendous athletes that pursued excellence and university studies.”
A winner of five conference titles during his time leading the Dinos, Kingston saw the game as a vehicle for developing young men, but also driving the game of hockey forward.
“I was a teaching professor, as was Clare. The university hockey programs were our laboratories, if I can put it that way. We were looking at the science of and development of the game of hockey,” Kingston explained.
While his impact on the Dinos and the game as a whole is unquestionable, Kingston was part of a broader university coaching fraternity who were pushing the envelope in terms of what hockey could look like, both on and off the ice.
“We were all very technical coaches at that time, because we were doing the physiology, the psychology, the biomechanics; we were working on that. We were looking at making skating more efficient,” explained Kingston.
“There was a community of scholars that were really the bulwark of providing young players and coaches everywhere with a foundation.”
With success and innovation at the university level came opportunities internationally and in the NHL.
Kingston stepped onto the international scene in the early 1980s, first as an assistant coach with Team Canada at the 1983 IIHF World Championship and then the 1984 Olympic Winter Games.
Those opportunities marked just the beginning, as Kingston went on to chair the 1988 Olympic tournament in Calgary, serve as general manager for Canada at 1994 Games, and in 1994 win Canada’s first gold at the World Championships since 1961.
Along with his time helping shape hockey in Canada, Kingston has also been influential in spreading his knowledge around the globe, including roles with the German, Norwegian, Mexican, and Lithuanian ice hockey federations.
Couple those experiences with his time in the NHL as the first-ever head coach of the San Jose Sharks, along with assistant roles in Calgary, Minnesota, Atlanta and Florida, he remains one of the most respected minds in the game.
All told, Kingston’s resume is remarkable. But ever the humble teacher, Kingston is quick to point out he was just one piece of the success at Calgary, and only one member of the Canada West coaching club who used their hockey laboratories to help shape the modern game.
“Sport has been very kind to me. Like Clare and others – the Wayne Flemings and the Dave Kings – we’ve been lifers doing what we can do to make the game better.”
Written by Evan Daum