Waddell 5 things

The Blue Jackets made it official today, announcing a new era of CBJ hockey with the hiring of Don Waddell as president of hockey operations and general manager.

A hockey lifer with a long career as a player and executive, Waddell comes to Columbus to run his third NHL squad, as he previously served as president and general manager of the Atlanta Thrashers and the Carolina Hurricanes.

The CBJ job was a coveted one around the league thanks to the organization’s bevy of young talent, and now Waddell will have the chance to mold the squad into a winner.

Here are five things to know about Waddell as he begins his CBJ tenure.

1. The basics: Waddell, 65, was born in Detroit and played college hockey as a defenseman at Northern Michigan University, where he shared league player of the year honors with Bowling Green forward John Markell, the former Ohio State coach who still resides in the Columbus area. A seventh-round draft choice of the Los Angeles Kings, he played one game for the team in 1980-81, but his career was mostly spent in the old IHL, where he played three seasons with Saginaw, two with Toledo and three with Flint. Waddell then became coach and general manager of the Flint squad before leading IHL franchises in San Diego and Orlando. He first got to the NHL in 1997-98, serving as assistant general manager of the Stanley Cup-winning Detroit Red Wings that season, before taking over as GM and later president – and occasionally head coach, which he did twice on an interim status – of the Atlanta Thrashers. He served the organization for the entirety of its time in the Peach State before the move to Winnipeg, then in 2014, Waddell became president of Gale Force Sports & Entertainment, parent company of the Carolina Hurricanes. Waddell became the team’s president and GM in 2018 and held that job until last week.

2. Ohio ties: Waddell hails from the state of Michigan and spent much of his on-ice career there, which means he hasn’t been far away from the Buckeye State. But he also has already spent part of his career in Ohio, playing two seasons from 1984 to ‘86 with the Toledo Goaldiggers of the IHL. In that time, Waddell skated in 105 games, notching 29 goals and 110 points. Perhaps most importantly, though, he met his wife, Cheryl, while playing in Toledo; in a twist of fate, he was traded by Flint to the Goaldiggers just a week after meeting her.

3. Just one NHL game: While Waddell clearly was a good hockey player, he never quite made it as a regular NHLer. His one game came Jan. 28, 1981, against the New York Rangers; Waddell was minus-1 and did not get on the scoresheet in a 6-2 loss at The Forum in Los Angeles. Almost 400 NHLers have had one-game careers at the highest level to this point, and you could argue that either Waddell or Don Cherry had the most accomplished post-playing career of that group.

4. International duty: Waddell owns an unfortunate part of the lore when it comes to the famed 1980 “Miracle on Ice” United States Olympic team. The squad that shocked the world and united the country by winning gold at the Lake Placid Olympics could have featured Waddell, but he suffered a broken leg and then a sprained knee in the lead-up to the tournament and as a result did not make the final roster. Waddell did eventually get to go to the Olympics, serving as the general manager for the United States squad that that participated in the 2006 Games in Turin, Italy. He also thrice served as Team USA's general manager at the IIHF World Championships.

5. Carolina success: As we noted earlier, Waddell spent 10 seasons with the Hurricanes organization, and he leaves with the organization on much more stable footing, not to mention a Stanley Cup contender. Carolina won at least one playoff round during each of his six seasons in charge of hockey operations, including a trio of 50-win seasons the past three years, and made the Eastern Conference Final in 2019 and ‘23. On the business side, the Hurricanes have sold out each of their last 67 games at PNC Arena, including regular season and postseason, marking the longest sellout streak in franchise history. Carolina also hosted an outdoor Stadium Series game a season ago at Carter-Finley Stadium, home of North Carolina State football.

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