Glen Sonmor, an explosive hockey coach who guided the Minnesota North Stars to their first Stanley Cup finals in 1981, died on Monday in Brantford, Ontario. He was 86.
His sister, Jean Sonmor, confirmed the death, saying he had pneumonia.
Sonmor became coach in 1978 and led the North Stars to 177 wins, 161 losses and 83 ties.
His greatest achievement came in 1981, when his young players reached the Stanley Cup finals against the dominant Islanders. The Islanders won the first three games, but the Stars prevailed in the fourth before losing the fifth.
Sonmor, who was treated for alcoholism several times, was combative. He took on opposing coaches and players, as well as referees and fans. He was fined $1,000 in 1981 by the National Hockey League for encouraging his players to batter the Boston Bruins during a game that broke six league penalty records.
“Sure, I told my guys I was tired of us being pushed around,” Sonmor said after the fight.
After the game, Sonmor scuffled with the Bruins’ coach, Gerry Cheevers. The New York Times reported that he had challenged Cheevers to a fight, saying “he’d better bring a basket for his head” before the teams next met.
Despite high expectations, the North Stars slumped after their run to the playoffs, and Sonmor felt the pressure.
In 1983, he suffered a black eye and a broken nose during a bar fight with a fan in Pittsburgh. Shortly afterward, he announced that he was frustrated with coaching and would resign.
Glen Robert Sonmor was born on April 22, 1929, in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan. He played high school hockey in Hamilton, Ontario, and later played for teams in the American Hockey League and, briefly, for the Rangers. His playing career ended in 1955 after he lost his left eye to an errant puck.
Sonmor coached for the University of Minnesota from 1966 until 1971, compiling a 77-80-6 record. After resigning from the North Stars, he returned to coach them for a time, and then worked in different capacities for the team and as a radio analyst for the University of Minnesota. (The North Stars moved to Dallas in 1993 and are now the Stars.)
Lou Nanne, the Hall of Fame player and the North Stars’ general manager while Sonmor was coach, said in a phone interview on Tuesday that Sonmor had been sober for more than 30 years.
Sonmor was married and divorced twice. In addition to his sister, he is survived by a daughter, Kate Bowie, and two grandsons.
An earlier version of this obituary misstated the year of Sonmor’s birth. It was 1929, not 1949. (As the obituary correctly noted, he was 86.)
An earlier version of this obituary misstated the name of the city in Ontario where Sonmor died. It is Brantford, not Branford.