New coach brings new energy to Lakers

By Allan Bradbury
Staff Writer

Paul MacLean has won championships as a player and a coach and has been working hard since he was hired to bring high-end young talent to Fort Frances.

After a junior hockey career that saw him play across Canada from Toronto to Vernon, B.C. including a Centennial Cup in his last junior stop on the west coast. He went on to play in minor professional leagues with two teams out of Thunder Bay in the now-defunct Colonial Hockey League as well as in the East Coast Hockey League.

Once his playing days were done MacLean started a development camp in the Oakville-Etobicoke area which he ran for almost 20 years before getting into coaching.

MacLean says he’s been involved in hockey for as long as he can remember.

“I’ve basically been participating in hockey my whole life,” he said. “Everybody else in my family is in real estate.”

MacLean has coached in the Greater Ontario Hockey League as well as the Manitoba Junior Hockey League. Most recently, MacLean has been coaching in the minor professional Federal Prospects Hockey League in the United States. MacLean has been with that league since 2018 in different roles with different teams. Most recently he won the league’s championship as an assistant coach with the Watertown Wolves in the Federal Prospects Hockey League in Watertown, New York.

“I got into coaching minor pro the last four years in the US,” MacLean said. “Which was great during COVID, I got to actually work.”

This won’t be MacLean’s first foray into the SIJHL, he was the head coach of the Dryden GM Ice Dogs from 2012 to 2014.

“I was looking to get back to Canada and see if we can keep things going this year,” MacLean said. “I thought this was a good fit because when I coached against Fort I thought it was a good hockey town. When the opportunity came I was in Watertown at the tail end of the season there and won the championship. I thought I might like to try the junior level again. So we got started fairly early, I started recruiting and it’s starting to come around.”

While there are some carryovers from last year’s 5-35-1 season MacLean is also working to bring new blood to the team. He has 15 players signed with the hopes of adding more as training camp approaches and after camp which does give some players the opportunity to make the team. He says he’d also like to have a few more players from Fort Frances on the team as well.

“It’s really good to get a couple of hard-working local kids,” MacLean said. “So they can be part of the practices and be ready to go when they’re called. There’s a few of them coming to camp so we’ll see what happens.”

MacLean says he’s trying to build the team from the net out. Building on solid defense and goaltending.

“When I started recruiting it was really just goaltending and defense,” MacLean said. “Defense is always your Achilles heel. In the NHL it’s the same thing. It’s why Toronto can’t win a Stanley Cup. They’ve got all this offense but you can’t win games 7-6 all the time.”

MacLean is also looking to add natural scoring talent as well.

“We’re still looking for a couple more offensive players as well,” MacLean said. “You can’t teach natural goal scoring. I think we’ll find one or two more guys, there’s a lot of time yet.

The Fort Frances Lakers open the season on September 24, at home against the Thunder Bay North Stars at 7:30 p.m. at Ice For Kids Arena.

Fort Frances Lakers President Gary Silander (left) and new Head Coach Paul MacLean. MacLean rode in the fair parade and was at the fair in Emo last weekend meeting local hockey fans and even completed a player signing while at the fair. -Fort Frances Lakers photo