Edmonton, Alberta - It is now guaranteed that a former Bulldog will compete in the National Hockey League's (NHL) Stanley Cup Final later this month.
Bulldog alum John Gruden and former assistant coach Derek Lalonde are currently facing off in the Eastern Conference Final, being played in the NHL Bubble at the Rogers Center in Edmonton.
Gruden, in his second year behind the New York Islander bench as an assistant coach, has aided future hall-of-fame coach Barry Trotz in launching the surprising sixth-seeded Islanders to upset wins over the Washington Capitols and top-seeded Philadelphia Flyers to reach the Eastern Conference Final.
Lalonde has helped the Tampa Bay Lightning to the most wins in the NHL over the past two seasons (105 in 152 games). Under the direction of one of the NHL's top bench bosses in Jon Cooper, Lalonde was originally a hire of current Detroit Red Wings general manager Steve Yzerman in Tampa. The Lightning, who came into the NHL playoffs with the second-best record in the NHL during the 2019-20 season, ousted the Columbus Blue Jackets and the NHL's top-performer in the regular season, the Boston Bruins, to reach the Eastern Conference Final.
The Lightning hold a 1-0 series lead over the Islanders following an 8-2 victory in the series' opener.
The New York native Lalonde was behind the Bulldog bench from 2003-2006 before moving on to work for the Denver University Pioneers, where he helped lead them to the NCAA Tournament four times. Lalonde also coached Bulldog alum Gerald Mayhew in the American Hockey League (AHL) with the Iowa Wild.
The Minnesota native Gruden played for Ferris State from 1990-1994, scoring 104 points as a defenseman. Gruden is one of 12 former Bulldogs to play in the National Hockey League, dressing for the Boston Bruins and Ottawa Senators in 92 games. Grudent also spent time with the Providence Bruins and Grand Rapids Griffins (American Hockey League and International Hockey League) as well as the Detroit Vipers and Berlin in the German League.
Gruden helped lead the Hamilton Bulldogs in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) to a playoff championship before being name an assistant to Trotz with the Islanders.
The full schedule for the Eastern Conference Finals is below.
Game 1: Lightning 8, Islanders 2. (recap)
Game 2: Wednesday, Sept. 9, 8 p.m ET – NBCSN
Game 3: Friday, Sept. 11, 8 p.m. ET – USA
Game 4: Sunday, Sept. 13, 3 p.m. ET – NBC
*Game 5: Tuesday, Sept. 15, 8 p.m. ET – NBCSN
*Game 6: Thursday, Sept. 17, 8 p.m. ET – NBCSN
*Game 7: Saturday, Sept. 19, 7:30 p.m. ET – NBC