Former Rangers coach known for wearing tracksuit during games dies at 91

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Jean-Guy Talbot, who coached the New York Rangers for one season in the 1970s, died Thursday. He was 91 years old.

A seven-time Stanley Cup champion as a player with the Montreal Canadiens, Talbot coached the Rangers to a 30-37-13 record in 1977-78. He was hired by John Ferguson, who was Rangers general manager at the time and Talbot’s former teammate as part of Montreal’s dynasty in the late 1950s.

Talbot’s tenure on Broadway was brief. He was replaced by Fred Shero after the Rangers finished last in the Patrick Division and were eliminated by the Buffalo Sabres in three games in the best-of-3 preliminary round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Under Shero, the Rangers reached the Stanley Cup Final in 1979, when they lost to the Montreal Canadiens in five games.

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Jean-Guy Talbot broke tradition, wore tracksuit behind bench for Rangers

Talbot is best remembered in New York for his clothing choice behind the bench. At a time when all NHL coaches wore suits, Talbot decided to wear a polyester tracksuit, often with a turtleneck underneath. 

“To me, the Talbot sweatsuit was roughly equivalent to the fisherman jersey of the New York Islanders. Wrong idea at worst time,” Hockey historian Stan Fischler told Forever Blueshirts. “If the Islanders had worn the fisherman jersey when they were winning Cups, it would have been welcome.

“Same goes for Talbot. I thought it was a non-traditional, but great idea. Players are in uniform so what’s wrong with Jean-Guy wearing a sweatsuit? But the Rangers were a losing team, so why not pick on the coach and his ‘pajamas’?”

Talbot played in six NHL All-Star games and was a first-team All-Star in 1961-62. A sturdy defenseman, Talbot helped the Canadiens win five consecutive Stanley Cup championships from 1956-60. He also helped Montreal win the Cup in 1965 and 1966.

All told, Talbot played 1,066 NHL games with the Canadiens, Minnesota North Stars, Detroit Red Wings, St. Louis Blues and Buffalo Sabres. He racked up 1,104 penalty minutes and had 285 points (43 goals, 242 assists).

Fischler recalled one wild scene involving Talbot at the old Madison Square Garden. Talbot got into a fight and had his Montreal jersey pulled off by popular Rangers pugilist “Leapin’ Louie” Fontinato. Talbot then watched in disbelief when Fontinato “tossed it onto the ice and kept jumping on it like a butcher cutting up meat for burgers!”

Looking back, perhaps Talbot should have done the same with his unpopular tracksuits as Rangers coach.

Jim Cerny is Executive Editor at Forever Blueshirts and Managing Editor at Sportsnaut, with more than 30 years of... More about Jim Cerny

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