Webster’s Dictionary defines “legend” as “a famous or important person who is known for doing something extremely well”. It is also defined as “a person or thing that inspires”. You can easily replace the word “legend” with the name of Cleveland Barons’ coach “Tim Alexander” and get the same definition.
Unfortunately, a youth hockey legend was lost when Alexander lost his battle to Pancreatic Cancer on January 26th, 2016.
— Gagne's Skate Shop (@GagnesSkateShop) January 26, 2016
After Alexander’s funeral a current player tweeted out something which summed up his life in under 140 characters.
When asked today at the funeral, “How many hockey players are here?” and 90% of the people raise their hand. That’s a legacy. R.I.P Coach
Alexander had quite the legacy stemming all the way from his youth days in Ontario with Club 240. While there Club 240 won the All Ontario Juvenile AAA Championship.
He would then go on to play hockey in college at Bowling Green State University from 1976-1980. Alexander would play in 107 games scoring 26 goals and 32 assists. BGSU won three Central Collegiate Hockey Association Championships and earned three NCAA Tournament bids during this time.
After college Alexander started his first head coaching job with Rocky River High School (1980-86) located in Rocky River, Ohio. Over six seasons, he coached Rocky River to a phenomenal 122-61-8 record.
It was evident how many lives Alexander changed within the Rocky River hockey system when they took the ice for their January 29th game. On each of the players helmets was a black sticker with the words “Coach TA” written in white. As both teams lined up on their respective blue lines a moment of silence was held before playing of the Canadian National Anthem.
Alexander’s legacy of excellence doesn’t stop at Rocky River High School. For two seasons (1990-1992) he stood alongside noted Ohio high school hockey coach, Bob Whidden, at Lakewood St. Eds. In 1992, they both would lead the Eagles to a State Championship win.
The next seasons (1992-93) excellence would follow Alexander as he coached the Cleveland Barons to a NAJHL JR B League Championship.
Alexander would then go on to be the Head Coach and General Manager of the Cleveland Barons (NAHL JR A Hockey Club) from 1993 – 2001. He would take a break from the Barons during the 2001-2002 season to be the Assistant Coach at his alma mater Bowling Green State University.
At the end of the 2001-02 season, Alexander would go back to his beloved Cleveland Barons. While there he had a record of 311-241-31 and was named NAHL Coach of the Year twice. Many NHL players, such as Mike Rupp and Jim Slater,had the privilege of being coached by Alexander. The quest for excellence caused many of Alexander’s former players to succeed in ways they never thought imaginable.
We lost a great man & great coach that I learned so much from in juniors w/ the Cleveland Barons. Coach Alexander pic.twitter.com/uMct5fJciR
— Jim Slater (@slaterjim) January 27, 2016
In 1994, Alexander helped found the Cleveland Barons AAA (Tier 1 Elite) youth program and become the Director of the organization. There are currently 10 youth teams with over 200 boys and girls. He had the chance to change the lives of over 200 Cleveland youth on a daily basis.
Alexander treated all of the boys and girls in the Cleveland Barons program as if they were family.He wanted nothing but the best from each person who walked through the doors of Lakefront Lines arena.
If there is one thing I have taken from my years in youth hockey it’s hockey is family. The moment you walk through the doors of the rink you are family. Whether you like it or not, you are family.
On Saturday January 30th, 2016 his hockey family, U-18 Cleveland Barons, took the ice against their rivals, Ohio AAA Blue Jackets, for the first time since Alexander’s passing. Both teams took their place on the blue line taking a moment of silence for the man who changed all of their lives.
I wish I could give you a fairytale ending and tell you the Barons beat their rivals in an epic battle but I cannot. They would end up losing the game, 5-1.
However, the Barons played with the dignity, tenacity, and passion in which their beloved coach taught them. Tim Alexander would be proud.
Elaine is in her first year writing for The Hockey Writers. She will mostly be covering the Columbus Blue Jackets, Lake Erie Monsters, NWHL, and the charitable works all hockey players partake in.
She just ended a two season internship with the Ohio AAA Blue Jackets.