NAME: Willie Desjardins
SPORT: Men’s Hockey
YEARS ACTIVE: 1979-1984 (student-athlete), 1985-1994 (coach – CGY)
1983 University Cup champion
1982-83 Canada West Player of the Year
Two-time U of S Male Athlete of the Year (1981, 1983)
Coached Calgary to 1990 CW hockey title
Coached Canada to men’s hockey bronze at 2018 Olympics
As a men’s hockey player at the University of Saskatchewan, Willie Desjardins won plenty of titles. Now as a coach at the game’s highest levels, the Climax, Sask., native has done the same.
Desjardins captained the Huskies to their first national championship in 1983, winning tournament MVP as the Huskies hoisted the University Cup after beating Concordia 6-2 in the final at Moncton. He was also a member three consecutive Canada West championship teams, from 1981 to 1983.
A four-time Canada West All-star, Desjardins was named the conference’s player of the year for 1982-83, when he also made the All-Canadian team. In 1981 and 1983, Desjardins was awarded the E. Kent Phillips Trophy as Saskatchewan’s male athlete of the year. Nineteen-eight-three also saw him awarded the Rusty McDonald Cup for leadership, sportsmanship, athletics and academics.
Desjardins was the Huskies leading scorer in three of his five seasons, and at the time of completing his student-athlete career ranked first in team history with 68 goals and 121 assists for 189 points in 121 games.
After graduation in 1985, Desjardins joined the University of Calgary’s men’s hockey staff as an assistant, before taking over the program in 1988-89 and helming it for six seasons. With Desjardins as head coach, the Dinos had a 113-44-11 record in conference games and won the Canada West title in 1990.
From there, Desjardins began a remarkable coaching journey that has spanned the globe, with tenures in the National Hockey League, American Hockey League, Western Hockey League, professional teams in Japan, and the Canadian national program.
Desjardins coached the Medicine Hat Tigers to WHL championships in 2004 and 2007, guided the AHL’s Texas Stars to the Calder Cup in 2014, and Canada to bronze at the 2018 Olympics.
He was an assistant coach for Canada’s gold-medal winning team at the 2009 World Junior Championships, and head coach the following year when Canada captured silver at World Juniors. He was named the 2006 Canadian Hockey League Coach of the Year, and received the Louis A.R. Pieri Memorial Award as the AHL’s Coach of the Year in 2013.
Since 2014, Desjardins has spent parts of four season as a head coach in the National Hockey League, with Vancouver and Los Angeles, highlighted in 2014-15 when he led the Canucks to second place in the Pacific Division with 101 points and a playoff berth. He began his second stint as head coach of Medicine Hat in the 2019-20 WHL season.
Desjardins is a member of the University of Saskatchewan’s Hall of Fame’s class of 1994.