TORONTO (Reuters) - The National Hockey League’s Toronto Maple Leafs dipped into the past on Tuesday and named former player Ron Wilson as head coach of the team, which is coming off the latest of a string of disappointing seasons.
Wilson, who was fired last month by the San Jose Sharks, replaces Paul Maurice, who was let go after two seasons as Leaf coach.
The Leafs last appeared in the NHL playoffs in 2004 and have not won the Stanley Cup since 1967.
The Canadian-born Wilson becomes the 27th Leaf coach and the 15th former Maple Leafs player to return to coach the storied franchise, joining the likes of Hap Day, King Clancy, Howie Meeker and Pat Quinn. Wilson played parts of three seasons as a defenseman with the Maple Leafs from 1977 to 1980.
He signed a four-year contract as coach. Terms were not announced.
“This is an unbelievable day for me,” he told a press conference.
“Obviously when you lose your job in this league you often wonder if you’ll get another opportunity and the furthest thing from my mind at any point in my hockey career was that I would have an opportunity ever to coach a team like the Toronto Maple Leafs with their incredible history.”
Wilson has a 518-446-127 record during his NHL coaching career with the Anaheim Ducks, Washington Capitals and the Sharks. He also coached the United States to a 1996 World Cup of Hockey title, beating Canada in the final.
Naming a new coach was one of many tasks for the Leafs. The team must still find a full-time general manager and address a number of key player transactions including the re-signing of captain Mats Sundin.
Reporting by Scott Anderson; Editing by Peter Galloway