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Paddock’s grand night turns bittersweet

On a night when John Paddock will coach reach an illustrious milestone in his AHL career, he will do so with a heavy heart.

Paddock’s 1,000th regular-season game as an AHL head coach will also be the first since the death Wednesday of his former boss and mentor, Frank Mathers.

Mathers and Bun Cook are the only men ahead of Paddock in both games won and games coached in the AHL. Both are enshrined in the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Paddock remembered Mathers in Friday’s editions of the Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin, the Patriot-Ledger and the York Daily Record.

“He’s a man that gave you, and you gave back to him, more respect than you can imagine,” Paddock said. “He lived his life in hockey and away from hockey like we wish we could.”

Paddock coached for four seasons himself in Hershey, where Mathers became synonymous with the Bears over a 35-year playing, coaching and managing career.

“He’s an example I wish I could live up to,” Paddock said. “I think he was the kind of man who gets the utmost respect from everyone who knows him.

“Before I think of Hershey and what a great town it is, I think of Frank. To me, he epitomizes Hershey hockey.”

Mathers, a Winnipeg native, was a part of eight AHL title teams, including four as a player, one as a coach and three more as president and GM of the Bears. Paddock, a fellow Manitoban (Oak River), has five Calder Cup championships to his credit: two as a player and three as a coach.

Paddock hits the 1,000-game mark when his Binghamton Senators visit the Bridgeport Sound Tigers tonight. The Bears will honor Mathers’ memory at their home game against Bridgeport on Saturday.

“If anybody spent more than 30 seconds with Frank Mathers,” said Paddock, “they were a better person for it.”