Ottawa Senators assistant coach Mark Reeds passed away Tuesday morning at 55 after a battle with cancer. Reeds, who joined the Senators prior to the 2011-12 season, was the OHL coach of the year in 2010-11 and had spent 15 seasons as a bench boss. He played 365 NHL games with the St. Louis Blues and Hartford Whalers.
I recall the first time I watched Mark Reeds play hockey.
It was during the 1978-79 season and the second-year member of the Peterborough Petes, a right winger, commanded a viewer’s attention every time he climbed over the boards to skate a shift with the team that would win the Memorial Cup that season. The only Memorial Cup the franchise has ever won, for that matter.
At 5-foot-10 and 180 pounds, Reeds was medium sized, but what made him stand out on a team that was as big as some NHL teams was his blazing speed and his ability to dish out bone-crunching hits.
Mark Reeds took no prisoners. When he zeroed in on an opponent, he was like a heat-seeking missile. He didn’t just hit opponents, he followed through and flattened them. I can recall many times feeling sorry for his victim and thinking to myself, ‘Ouch! I think that hit hurt that kid’s whole family!’
He quickly gained a reputation for being a punishing body-checker that caused opposing defensemen to rush their shots or get rid of the puck quickly to avoid being steamrolled.
Reeds played junior hockey in an era when the NHL favored larger hockey players, but I always had the feeling that his speed and toughness would carry him to the top. Not only that, he played the game properly. He never cheated. If Reeds was carrying the puck and lost it, he didn’t do the lazy man’s loop before heading back into the play. He hammered on the breaks and immediately hunted the puck down. In that regard, he was a coach’s dream.
Also, Reeds took pride in his defensive play. The Petes, under the likes of coaches Scotty Bowman, Roger Neilson, Gary Green and Dick Todd, had a sterling reputation for producing reliable two-way NHL-ready players and Reeds was one of the best. In fact, it was his defensive ability that enabled him to play 365 games in the NHL with the St. Louis Blues and Hartford Whalers.
Reeds and I had a good player-reporter relationship; one that carried on through the years as he became a solid NHL player and then a respected coach. Watching him play in Peterborough as a junior helped me to understand the value and importance of being responsible defensively.
Former NHL defenseman Larry Murphy, a Hall of Famer who played two seasons with Reeds in Peterborough, recalls his former teammate as both quiet and cagey.
“He was pretty quiet, but he was also one of those guys who kept everyone else – especially the rookies – in line,” Murphy says. “On the bus trips he always made sure the rookies were doubled up (two per seat).”
Murphy says Reeds used to drive him to school each morning.
“He had a Mustang with a big stereo system and he’d play Foghat really loud to and from school,” Murphy says. “I always knew when he was picking me up in the morning because I could hear him coming a few blocks away.”
Murphy says when it came to playing and practicing hockey, Reeds was all business. That spilled over into his coaching career. After he retired as a player, Reeds spent 15 seasons coaching in the International Hockey League, ECHL, United Hockey League; winning the UHL championship in 2005-06 with the Kalamazoo Wings.
Reeds then coached the Ontario Hockey League’s Owen Sound Attack for four seasons, winning the OHL crown in 2010-11 before joining the Ottawa Senators as an assistant coach under Paul MacLean. Reeds was the OHL’s coach of the year in ’10-11.
Reeds passed away today from cancer leaving behind his wife, Mary, and two children, Kyle and Kelsey. He was 55.
“It is with very heavy hearts that all of us within the Senators family remember Mark who was truly a wonderful father, husband, player, coach and friend. Mark’s charismatic fighting spirit was present right until the end. We are all better for having had the opportunity to work so closely with Mark whose passion for life, hockey and his family will leave an indelible mark on our organization. The entire Ottawa Senators organization sends its deepest condolences to the Reeds family,” said Senators owner Eugene Melnyk, in a statement issued by the team Tuesday morning.