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MacLean says he's honoured and excited to step into role as an assistant coach for the Flames

by TY PILSON @typilson /

Perseverance, dedication and a relentless drive to master his craft.

While it's difficult to sum up anyone's professional journey in a sentence, the one above does a pretty darn good job of encapsulating Cail MacLean's career.

He spent 11 years - that's 747 games - playing in the minor leagues in the IHL, AHL and ECHL, before stepping behind the bench to spend nine years coaching in the AHL and ECHL - eight of those in the Flames organization with various teams. 

In 2017, he took over the reins of the Flames farm team in California, helping the impressive 'Stockton Pipeline' continue to produce talent that graduated to the big club.

On Thursday, MacLean was promoted to the role of assistant coach here in Calgary, as part of a move that saw Kirk Muller also join the club as associate coach.

And just like any player that finally gets his call to The Show, the moment has been a surreal one for MacLean.  

"It definitely hasn't sunk in, I'll tell you right now," he said from his off-season home on Lake George in Upstate New York, not far from where he spent two season as the head coach of the organization's then ECHL affiliate, the Adirondack Thunder. "That's the thing that keeps coming into my mind. Thinking back to when I was boy, just my mom and dad taking me to the rink as a player and having aspirations to play in the NHL, like I did, to becoming a coach, I just think about all those things people did for me along the way, all those that supported me. You just kind of want to shout their names out and thank them and to also say, 'look what we all did.' 

"Between my family growing up and my family now in terms of my wife and my daughter, all the sacrifices they've made. It's pretty special for us to do it knowing that they've been there every bit as much as I have going through this."



Ray Edwards - who spent time behind the bench last season - will return to a role in player development, joined by Martin Gelinas, who will transition from his assistant coach role to work with the club's talent also in a player development role.

MacLean explained that his new job will touch many areas going forward.  

"I'll spend time in the press box as the eye in the sky, I'll work with players one-on-one, I'll help with various practice elements and video elements, things like pre-scouting," he explained. "Those will be areas I'll have more responsibility. What I think is exciting about it is that if I bring the right work ethic and attitude to the table (it will create success). (Head coach) Darryl (Sutter) has really done a great job of explaining, 'hey, we are a group that works together and we can all chip in.' Wherever help is needed, wherever substance can be provided, we're all gonna help. And I think that's important."

When asked what he'll bring to the team, MacLean said his years in hockey have taught him many things, but one stands out among the rest.

"I think that he one thing I've learned is that relationships are so important, how to treat people," he explained. "There are so many of us that work so hard and are sharp with our craft but the underlying commonality is that if you treat people well, it's important. This business is about trust and relationship. I think that's something I've tried to do - just be a good person as I'm working my way through this. I've also managed to wear a lot of hats in a lot of different roles and I think that gives me an edge. I don't have all the knowledge but I've certainly looked at it from a lot of angles. I think all that working away in the minor leagues has helped with that."

As MacLean mentioned earlier, today is not just a big day for himself, but also his wife Keri and 10-year-old daughter Ashton.

The family is looking forward to trading in the California sun for a good, old-fashioned Canadian winter. MacLean - who was born in Nova Scotia - said Ashton, especially, is 'pumped' to take advantage of all it will offer. 

So will she try snowboarding, skiing, tobogganing, snowshoeing and skating outside?

"I can't wait - I hope she does it all and I hope that opens up some great new chapters in our life," he said. "There's a lot of hard things about travelling as a professional coach but at the same time, it gives opportunities for your family. 

"So we're very grateful for this one."

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