On Monday the Fort Frances Lakers announced they have hired a new Head Coach and General Manager to lead the team into the next season. Paul MacLean has previous experience in the Superior International Junior Hockey League (SIJHL) as coach for the Dryden GM Ice Dogs from 2012-2014.
The name Paul MacLean may be familiar with NHL hockey fans; The Lakers’ new coach shares a name with the French-born assistant coach of the Toronto Maple Leafs. However, the Lakers’ new hire hails from Oakville, Ont. and has been a hockey heavyweight in his own right, earning most of his experience in the junior and minor league hockey ranks.
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.
Lakers President Gary Silander says the hiring process was extensive.
“We had a hiring committee of non-board members,” Silander said. “We ended up with 19 resumés. The committee went through them and created a shortlist and [MacLean] came up on it.”
Silander says the committee was made up of local people with high-level hockey backgrounds.
“We had some good talent in the guys we had looking [at the resumés],” Silander said. “Five people who have played high-level hockey.”
Part of what stood out about MacLean is his wealth of connections, said Silander.
“He’s got great connections, with the west and the east, and a little bit in the US as well,” Silander said. “Which is something we’ve been lacking in the last couple of years. Not quite the contacts we should have had.”
In addition to having coached in Dryden, MacLean also played not far away in Thunder Bay as a member of the now defunct Thunder Bay Thunder Hawks and Thunder Bay Senators in the former Colonial Hockey league from 1992-1994. He has also played in the East Coast Hockey League.
With regards to assistant coaches, Silander says the team will connect MacLean with coaches in the area they think might be a good fit to help out on the bench.
Silander also wanted to add his thanks to interim coach Ron McKinnon who guided the Lakers through the end of last season.
“We thank Ron and his group for everything they’ve done this year,” Silander said. “We’ve chosen to go a different route this year and we wish everybody the best.”
Silander says he hopes to meet MacLean in June in-person and introduce him to the area. He will be here for training camp in the fall, and has already started recruiting players.
“Right now, training camp is penciled in Sept. 9, 10, 11,” Silander said. “But he’s working already. I have a signed contract in my hand as we speak. So he’s on board, and he’s recruiting now.”