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Minnesota Wild Name Coach

Jacques Lemaire, a Hall of Fame player with a Stanley Cup on his resume as a coach, was hired Monday as the first coach of the expansion Minnesota Wild.

Lemaire, who coached the New Jersey Devils to the NHL championship in 1995, agreed to a multiyear contract.

"Jacques is a coach with strong teaching abilities, who has been very successful at the NHL level," general manager Doug Risebrough said. "He will teach the fundamentals of playing and winning."

The 54-year-old coach played with Risebrough in Montreal for eight seasons. He spent the past two seasons as a consultant to Canadiens general manager Rejean Houle.

"This is a great opportunity for me to build a team and a tradition of excellence for the Minnesota Wild organization," Lemaire said. "(Risebrough) and I share the same commitment and patience necessary to develop young players and we understand the devotion required to win the Stanley Cup."

Lemaire, known for an effective but dull neutral zone trap defense, coached the Canadiens from 1983-85 and the Devils from 1993-98.

He spent his entire 12-year career with the Canadiens, winning eight Stanley Cups. He played on a line with fellow Hall of Famers Guy Lafleur and Steve Shutt.

Lemaire coached the team for the last 17 games of the 1983-84 season and the entire 1984-85 season before moving to the front office. Montreal won two more Cups, in 1986 and 1993, while Lemaire was an assistant GM.

He joined the Devils in 1993 and was selected the league's coach of the year in 1994, before leading the club to its first championship in 1995.

Lemaire resigned from the Devils at the end of the 1997-98 season when the Devils were ousted in the first round of the playoffs after winning the Atlantic Division with a 48-23-11 record.

It was New Jersey's second straight poor performance in the playoffs. Both times, Lemaire's defensive-minded team didn't score enough goals.

"The biggest challenge is probably first to pick the right people," Lemaire said at a news conference in St. Paul, where the Wild will start play in October.

Risebrough stressed that he and his staff have been working for the past eight months on deciding which players they want, so Lemaire won't be integrally involved in the draft.

"We'll be able to select the players, and he'll be able to coach the players," Risebrough said.

Lemaire acknowledged the team will face rough going early on.

"I don't want to lose," he said. "I think that I have enough patience to work with the players. I want the guys to give what they have to give, do what they do best, and I know we'll win our share of games."

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