Emotional Armstrong laments firing 'best friend' Hitchcock
It was a difficult day for Ken Hitchcock, but Doug Armstrong didn't have an easy one, either.
The St. Louis Blues general manager fought back tears during his opening remarks Wednesday at the first press conference of the Mike Yeo era, after Armstrong named the former Blues associate coach Hitchcock's replacement earlier than initially planned.
Yeo also expressed regret that his early promotion had to come at the expense of Hitchcock.
"I learned a great deal from him and I'm very appreciative," Yeo said. "I feel extremely bad that I'm sitting up here today."
Armstrong said he spoke to Hitchcock after Tuesday night's loss to the Winnipeg Jets, adding that the decision was especially tough because the veteran coach is "probably my best friend."
The GM gave an unprompted and topical comparison in reference to his outpouring of emotion Wednesday.
"As a Canadian citizen, I gave you my best impression of (U.S. Senator) Chuck Schumer," the GM quipped. Schumer teared up over the weekend discussing President Donald Trump's controversial immigration and travel ban.
The Blues have struggled mightily over the last two months or so, and are now clinging to the second and final Western Conference wild-card spot after losing five of their last six games.
"It's my responsibility why we're off track, and it's my responsibility to get them back on track," Armstrong said.
Yeo wasn't supposed to take over for Hitchcock until next season, as initially dictated by Armstrong when Yeo was brought on as associate coach last summer.
Armstrong also announced Wednesday that goaltending coach Jim Corsi was fired, and that both assistant general manager Martin Brodeur and former NHL netminder Ty Conklin will share goalie coach duties for the rest of the season.
As for Hitchcock, the GM summed up his conflicting emotions in one sentence.
"I'm disappointed for a friend, but excited about the future."