Esso Hockey since 1936Legends Of Hockey
Esso Hockey since 1936
Pilous, Rudy

Pilous, Rudy

During a career than spanned more than four decades, Rudy Pilous was a success everywhere he worked. His interests were many and included coaching, playing, managing, team ownership, and promotion.

Born in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Pilous played with the junior Portage La Prairie Terriers who captained by future NHL star Bryan Hextall Sr. He continued his junior career with Winnipeg Monarchs before moving up to the senior ranks with the Selkirk Fishermen then Nelson, B.C. of the Kootenay League. Pilous also spent time with the Richmond Hawks in the United Kingdom and was quite happy there when the New York Rangers came calling. He returned to North America to attend training camp and was assigned to the Blueshirts' top farm team, the New York Rovers.

Pilous never shied away from the truth. After requesting an honest opinion about his NHL potential from Rangers' bench boss Frank Boucher, the former Bread Line star told he lacked big league speed. Pilous next moved to St. Catharines to play on a senior team and work for General Motors. After three years in the OHA, he spent the 1941-42 season out of hockey but was itching to return to the game. After seeing the excitement generated by the Memorial Cup match up between the Oshawa Generals and Winnipeg Monarchs at Maple Leafs Gardens, Pilous sought his own junior franchise in St. Catharines, Ontario. After much lobbying for league approval and investors, he was successful in putting the Garden City on the map.

Pilous returned to pro hockey in 1946 to work as a scout and promotion assistant with the Buffalo Bisons of the American Hockey League (AHL). He then moved to Houston, Texas and turned around the fortunes of its United States Hockey League (USHL) team, winning the championship in 1947-48. Pilous was gaining a reputation as a trouble-shooter who was adept at transforming teams' fortunes for the better. His next accomplishment was taking the Pacific Coast League's San Diego Skyhawks from last place to the league crown in 1949.

After his foray into minor pro hockey, Pilous returned to St. Catharines where he a solid base of talent and won the Memorial Cup with the TeePees in 1954. He was part owner as well as manager and was very content when the opportunity to coach in the NHL presented itself. The Chicago Black Hawks needed a competent individual to coach their improved team and take it to the next level in the late 1950s. Pilous was up to the challenge of coaching the Hawks while still managing the junior outfit as he won the Memorial Cup in 1960 and the Stanley Cup the following year. This dual success didn't last long as Pilous soon sold the TeePees to a group of St. Catharines entrepreneurs and the Hawks opted to replace him with Billy Reay in 1963.

Pilous next moved back into minor pro hockey after he was hired by Punch Imlach to coach the Maple Leafs' Denver Invaders affiliate in the Western Hockey League (WHL) which was soon transferred to Victoria, BC. Before going to Victoria the Invaders won the WHL title in 1964.

Pilous soon tired of the strife existing between Stafford Smythe and Imlach. He joined the Detroit Red Wings' junior team in Hamilton, Ontario then was hired by the expansion Oakland Seals as their first general manager in 1967. The Seals' ownership was not patient and Pilous was removed and soon returned to Denver of the WHL where he quickly put together a contender.

He next worked with the junior Wheat Kings in Brandon, Manitoba when he was contacted by former Black Hawk Bobby Hull who wanted an experienced person to coach the Winnipeg Jets of the new World Hockey Association. After being elevated to general manager, Pilous built a team that won the Avco Cup in 1976, 1978 and 1979. He left the Jets after John Ferguson was hired as the head of operations and joined the Detroit Red Wings as a scout. Pilous later scouted for the Los Angeles Kings and coached the Toronto Maple Leafs' St. Catharines Saints AHL farm team from 1983 to 1986. He also coached in the popular Original Six oldtimers' circuit.

Pilous was inducted into the Hockey Hall of Fame in 1985.

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