More Than a Record


Doug Towler tried tuning out the chatter, even as it grew more deafening. The head coach of the Genesee County Generals – a cooperative team of players from Davison, Goodrich and Flushing high schools – Towler began this season a mere eight victories away from becoming Michigan’s all-time winningest high school hockey coach.



The likelihood of reaching 630 career wins and breaking the record during his 46th straight season of leading a Genesee County high school program was in the back – the very back – of Towler’s mind.

“The record just wasn’t talked about because the last thing I wanted was for that to become the focus,” Towler says. “I didn’t think that was best for our players, so it was certainly not discussed during practices. Other times, I’d run into guys who once played for me and they started telling me I was getting close, but I said I didn’t want to know.”

Nevertheless, plans to celebrate the historic milestone were being made.


Coach Towler’s 600th win on his way to becoming Michigan’s all-time winningest high school hockey coach came with Davison’s defeat of Mount Pleasant on February 10, 2021.


During the first week of December, assistant coach Ryan Welch concluded that Towler could tie and then break the record if the Generals beat Tawas and Bay City Thunder on consecutive days (December 22-23) at Bay County Civic Arena.

With help from others, Welch began organizing a surprise party for Towler at Madden’s Lounge in Davison following the December 23 game.

The team put itself in position for the plans to materialize and Towler tied the record set by former Trenton coach Mike Turner with a 3-2 win over Tawas. The next day, the Generals raced to a 3-0 advantage over the Thunder before seeing their cushion shrink to 3-2.


“The record just wasn’t talked about because the last thing I wanted was for that to become the focus.”

Coach Doug Towler


“I started thinking before that game something was up as far as the record because both of my daughters were there, including one who lives in Chicago, and other family members,” Towler recalls.

Genesee preserved the 3-2 win and Towler realized he had ascended to top the state all-time victories list as t-shirts commemorating the achievement began popping up all over.

“I had no idea about the shirts, but the team knew, so that really provided extra motivation for them to win,” Towler says. “I usually don’t like that sort of attention, but it was a special moment to celebrate with a really nice group of young men we have this season and all the family and friends who were there.”

Donning the blue shirts with “630” in big, block red numbers on the front, players and assistant coaches gathered around Towler for photos.

“That was a great moment because coach Towler has worked so hard and has been a very good coach for such a long time,” says junior forward Dylan Callan, who scored the game’s second goal. “To be the team that got him the record was an awesome feeling for us.”


Doug Towler (far right) started coaching at Davison in 1992 before taking over the newly-formed Genesee County Generals two years ago.


As of February 12, Towler had increased his record to 639 wins against 414 losses and 62 ties at Flint Northern, Grand Blanc, Davison, and with the Generals. Along the way, his squads have captured 11 regional championships, reached the state semifinals four times and made two state championship appearances.

“Obviously, the success we’ve had does not happen without several things falling into place,” Towler says. “It starts with all the great kids I’ve coached who responded to me motivating them to work hard, be great teammates and get the most out of their abilities. The support system at home from my wife and daughters has been huge, hard to put into words, and I’ve been fortunate to work with great, supportive athletic directors.”

Also critically important has been the rare longevity of Towler’s coaching staff. In his 12th season, Welch, who played for Towler from 2002-06, is the staff’s junior member. Charlie Eakes, 84, has been coaching with Towler for 37 seasons and Tony Perry for 35.

“To me, those guys are the real story because they have sacrificed and stuck with me for so long even though they are volunteers, don’t get paid a thing,” he says. “They are all so good at what they do and the bond we have means a great deal to me. I’ve been so lucky.”



The assistants’ main role on that record-breaking night was getting Towler from Bay City to the surprise celebration. He agreed the four should unwind at Madden’s but began to feel something was amiss when Eakes and Perry took off in one car while Towler and Welch rode in another.

“Normally, we all ride back together from road games, and I thought it was kind of strange Charlie and Tony took off by themselves and got so far ahead of us,” Towler says.


“I want to continue having an impact on kids’ lives. It’s an amazing feeling.”

Coach Doug Towler


Nearly 100 people were awaiting the man of the hour, including former players, his immediate family and other relatives, coaches from other Genesee County teams and some of Towler’s co-workers at IMA Brookwood Golf Club where he is part of the pro shop staff.

“Seeing so many people there, including guys who played for me back in the 1980s, that’s when the emotions really hit me,” says Towler, whose surprise soiree came complete with his photo on a congratulatory cake. “What a fun night with so many laughs, so many stories. Some of the guys who played for me are now doctors, lawyers and judges. Seeing them have future success is a big reason why I coach, as well.”

Among those with much respect for Towler’s achievements is Powers Catholic coach Travis Perry, who has surpassed 350 wins in his 18th season and guided the Chargers to a Division 3 state championship last year.

“Coach Towler’s knowledge of the game, combined with longevity and ability to motivate and teach student athletes are big reasons for his success,” Perry says. “You can have great teams that win on a consistent basis, but in order to win more than 600 games, you have to be dedicated to doing so over a significant period of time. Coach Towler has done that.”

Growing up in the border town of Sarnia, Ontario, Towler began taking hockey seriously around age 12. His talent grew steadily, and he parlayed a productive season with the nearby Petrolia Jets of the Great Lakes Junior B Hockey League into two seasons of playing NCAA Division I hockey for the University of New Hampshire.

A feisty, 5-foot, 9-inch defenseman, Towler began a seven-year professional career with various minor league and European teams in the fall of 1973 with the North American Hockey League’s Long Island Cougars.

In 1976, Flint Generals coach Doug Carpenter put out the “help wanted” sign for defensemen and signed Towler. Despite living in Canada, he was familiar with Flint, having visited his aunt and cousins who lived there on several occasions.

“They had been urging me to come play in Flint, so I was really excited,” Towler says. “At that time, Flint was seriously the No. 1 place to play minor league hockey in the country because of how much the city loved the team and atmosphere at games. They were all like big events and a ton of fun.”

Towler spent the 1977-78 season with the Pacific Hockey League’s Long Beach Sharks before returning to Flint the next season but was traded after only five games to the Saginaw Gears. Just six games later, he fractured his wrist after crashing into the boards and missed the remainder of the season.

With a wife and young daughter to support by then, Towler began to seriously contemplate his future.

A former teammate, Wally Orr, who also played for Team USA in three World Championships, invited Towler to join him on a German team. In the end, he decided settling in Flint, where he had met wife Denise, was the best option for his young family and began working for Metropolitan Life Insurance Company.

Still, he had no desire to leave the ice and saw coaching as the perfect way to remain involved in the sport he remains ever passionate about.

Towler was hired to lead Flint Northern’s program at the start of the 1979-80 season when a mutual friend connected him with Athletic Director Jim Fowler.

In 1980, Towler began a nearly 30-year career with Consumers Energy and left Northern for Grand Blanc in 1981. He started coaching at Davison in 1992 before taking over the newly-formed Generals two years ago.

Towler, who turns 71 in May, does not want his current tenure to end anytime soon, but is realistic about the physical challenges he faces; longstanding back problems have led to six surgeries.

“I have rods and screws in me, but still love everything about coaching, especially getting on the ice with the team, working on issues and solving puzzles to improve,” he says. “I want to continue having an impact on kids’ lives. Whenever a former player tells me they may not have appreciated it when I was hard on them, but would now like to thank me for that – it’s an amazing feeling.”


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