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MacLean preparing for two lives after hockey

by Brian Compton
In reality, Cail MacLean has been a coach for the past few years.

Now, it’s simply official.

Refusing to allow the 32-year-old simply walk away after his recent retirement, the South Carolina Stingrays named their former captain an assistant coach Tuesday. MacLean will only be behind the bench for home games as he attempts to secure a degree in Business Administration from Trident Technical College.

“I’m really looking forward to it,” MacLean told “It’s something that I’ve been thinking about the last couple of years and it’s an opportunity that I’m really excited about.”

As are the Stingrays, who were able to work out a deal that will allow MacLean to coach and continue toward his degree simultaneously. Considering his ability to lead as a player, this move is a natural progression for the Middleton, Nova Scotia, native.

“To be honest, he could have had an assistant-coach title last year while playing,” South Carolina coach Jared Bednar said of MacLean, who had 21 goals and 25 assists in 63 games last season. “As a captain, I’ve never had another captain that kind of did the things he did. He just took control of our locker room, which last year was very helpful because of the fact that we didn’t have an assistant coach. I didn’t have to worry about our locker room at all and the little things that a coach has to worry about on a day-to-day basis. He kind of took care of all that. Now it’s just one more step up. It’s only going to help us in the long run.”

Without an assistant coach in South Carolina last season, MacLean knew he’d have added responsibilities within the locker room. Now that he’s Bednar’s right-hand man, the Stingrays are poised to have a successful season.

“Bedsie did a great job last season, but I think that it could really help to have another set of eyes for him to sort of diagnose what’s happening with our team,” MacLean said. “Our systems are good, but it’ll be good to be able to teach players individually to become better hockey players and break down video and build the team from the individual level up. I think it will make us a pretty formidable team.”

While it took some time to come to an agreement that worked for both sides, MacLean was as excited about becoming an assistant coach as Bednar was about bringing him on board. With a degree in the not-so-distant future, though, MacLean wants to at least have the ability to pursue a career outside hockey.

“I think that while I can stay involved in hockey, I want to do that,” MacLean said. “I want to continue on the hockey path, but I’m trying to keep my eyes open and sort of make sure I explore different things in school and see what can be the right fit for me long-term. Even a good hockey career, coaching-wise, won’t last forever. I want to try to explore and see what’s out there.”

MacLean said he hasn’t sought advice from any of his previous coaches as he enters his first season behind the bench, but he certainly was fortunate to have played for some brilliant hockey minds during his career. During his time in the ECHL and the American Hockey League, MacLean learned from the likes of Bruce Cassidy, Troy Ward, Mike Haviland and John Stevens.

Some of MacLean’s former teammates currently are coaching in the ECHL. Trenton coach Rick Kowalsky and assistant coach Vince Williams played with MacLean on the Trenton Titans team that reached the Kelly Cup Finals in 2001. MacLean and Williams remain close friends.

“We talk once in a while, and I’m sure he’ll have some words of advice for me,” MacLean said of Williams. “I’m fortunate to have some coaches in the past that have really been great, and I’ll be able to draw on their help. That’s good for me.”
In the end, this is a situation where everybody wins. MacLean gets to coach and go to school, while the Stingrays get to keep one of the best leaders the ECHL ever has known.

“When he decided he was going to retire this offseason, as an organization we felt that you just don’t want to let quality people walk away,” Bednar said. “After everything he’s done for our organization and the effort he’s put in the last few years, when he expressed interest in wanting to get into coaching, we tried to make sure that we’d be able to come to an agreement.

"I’m fortunate to have some coaches in the past that have really been great, and I’ll be able to draw on their help." -- Cail MacLean

“Getting to know him over the last few years, he’s a great character guy. He has a lot to offer for both myself and all of the guys on our team, especially the young guys. From all of his knowledge to just the way he carries himself and the way he approaches the game and the way he is in the community, I think he’s nothing but a positive influence on everyone in our organization. It’s certainly nice to bring him on board and have him help us out as much as possible.”
Around the ECHL –- The Las Vegas Wranglers agreed to terms with forwards Mike Hamilton, Matt McKnight, Luke Hunter and Tim Spencer, and defenseman Michael Beynon … Veteran forward Mike Bayrack signed with the Charlotte Checkers. Bayrack had 37 points in 39 games in Charlotte in 2007-08 after beginning the season in Europe … The Cincinnati Cyclones signed defensemen Donny Grover and Steve Makway … Goaltender Bryan Bridges signed with the Fresno Falcons … Malcolm Cameron delivered yet another Texas Wildcatter to Florida this week with the signing of forward Colin Nicholson. The Everblades also signed rookie defenseman Craig Switzer … Former NHL player Stephen Peat agreed to terms with the Phoenix Roadrunners. Peat had 10 points in 129 games with the Washington Capitals from 2001-06 … The Reading Royals signed defensemen Kevin Schaeffer and Steve Ward, and forward Jason McCrimmon … Rookie forward Michael Handza signed with the Bakersfield Condors.

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