Chris Panek, who had a hockey coaching career that spanned 25 years, has passed away. News of this was received early this morning. Below is the announcement and award the Buffalo Sabres made back in February honoring Chris for his service to hockey. It also a good, life-story of Chris’s life. RIP Chris.
The Buffalo Sabres announced that Chris Panek has been named the recipient of the 2020 J. Michael Duffett Memorial Award, presented each year to the coach whose contributions to amateur hockey in Western New York “best exemplify the knowledge, teaching, love of the game and gentle humanity of Mike.”
Panek is the 35th recipient of the J. Michael Duffett Memorial Award and will be presented with the award on Tuesday, Feb. 4 at the Sabres’ game against the Colorado Avalanche.
Panek’s coaching career has spanned 25 years, with his experience ranging from the midget to high school levels. Several of his players have gone on to have successful collegiate careers at the Division I and III levels. Additionally, three of Panek’s former players have reached the professional level: NHL and AHL alumni Tim Kennedy, Chris Mueller and Mike Ratchuk.
A former hockey player himself, Panek played at SUNY Plattsburgh before graduating to the ECHL and AHL ranks. He was selected by the Los Angeles Kings with the seventh pick in the 1987 NHL Supplemental Draft. Panek’s father, Frank, was the sixth recipient of the J. Michael Duffett Memorial Award, earning the recognition 30 years ago.
Mike Duffett was a student of the game and a coach with the Buffalo Bisons and the Amherst Hockey Association. A standout player at Nichols School and Clarkson University, Duffett was working in the Sabres’ hockey department under Scotty Bowman and Roger Neilson at the time of his death following a battle with cancer. The Sabres established the J. Michael Duffett Award in 1984 in his memory.