Thursday, July 23, 2009

New Coach for the Calgary Hitmen

The Western Hockey League Calgary Hitmen unveiled a new head coach on July 22 to fill a vacancy left by Dave Lowry, who recently moved across the hall to serve as Brent Sutter’s assistant with the Calgary Flames.

Not surprising, Mike Williamson has Alberta roots, having grown up in Leduc, just outside of Edmonton. He played his junior hockey in Portland (formerly the Edmonton Oil Kings) and has coached his entire career there. He won a Memorial Cup as an assistant coach and was 2001-01 WHL Western Conference Coach of the Year. What is interesting is that Williamson took the last two hockey seasons off to work for a Portland company in business development and to spend time with his newborn son.

“I’m very hungry to get back in. I was in Portland for a little over 15 years – it’s a long time in one place in this industry. I think I was a little bit exhausted.”

Williamson says he likes to coach a high speed transition game, and while he expects he’ll be able to get along well with the players, he will be demanding, too. He recognizes there were a lot of graduating players from last season – and after such success (reaching the WHL final), there will be some questions and holes to fill. “With the depth they had last year, there are a lot of young guys waiting in the wings that maybe didn’t get the opportunity last year.”

Hitmen General Manager Kelly Kisio isn’t concerned about the two-year hiatus. “He’s a knowledgeable guy. You look at his resume and he’s been with one organization for 15 to 17 years. You’ve got to be doing something right in this league – in any league – if you’re there for that long. He’s a young guy, enthusiastic.”

Kisio received a lot of resumes and phone calls when the head coaching job came vacant. Perhaps another element that gave Williamson the edge was his learning about the business sector in the past two years. And in all his years with Portland, he was able to gain responsibilities. That means Kisio could potentially groom him for his job.

“It’s a possibility, for sure,” admits Kisio.


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