John McDonald returns to the Red Wings
The last head coach to guide the Hamilton Red Wings to a championship will be back behind the bench of the Ontario Provincial Junior Hockey League club next season.
“It’s exciting,” said John McDonald, who officially rejoined the hockey club on Tuesday. “My goal is to put as many local kids as I can on that team who can play at that level.”
The 42-year-old McDonald has 21 years of hockey coaching experience at a variety of levels.
He coached the Red Wings from 2005-2007, amassing a record of 101-41-5, and won a West Conference championship in his third year.
McDonald left the club after the 2006-2007 season but has remained on good terms with team officials.
Following a 5-50 record this past season, the worst in team history, the Red Wings relieved Scott Elliott of his head coaching duties on Tuesday and the rest of the coaching staff was also let go.
McDonald said he’s been given pretty much full control to recruit players and build the team as he sees fit.
“If I didn’t have control…I would not have come back,” said McDonald, whose short term goal is to make the playoffs next season.
“I have no doubt the team will be better than it was this year,” McDonald said.
He plans to add Tom Cole junior and Matt Ianeiro as assistant coaches.
Both have been working with McDonald this season behind the bench of the Hamilton Junior Bulldogs minor pee wee team.
McDonald said he hopes to recruit players primarily from the Junior Bulldogs and Hamilton Huskies minor hockey organizations and repatriate some other Hamilton teens who are playing junior hockey elsewhere.
He’s also looking to affiliate with the Junior Bulldogs and Huskies and the Glanbrook Rangers junior C club next season.
“This way it gives you a variety of kids you can call up,” said McDonald, who owns 25 percent of the Rangers and is a former head coach there.
He’s adamant what has become a revolving door on the Red Wings’ dressing room in recent years will stop.
“We have to get interest back in this hockey club,” McDonald said. “We’re going to run the team like I feel it should be run.”
Red Wings owner Stu Hyman said he’s excited to have McDonald back as head coach.
“He’s a respected Hamilton hockey guy and we’re looking to add a lot of Hamilton players to our roster,” Hyman said. “I know a lot of Hamilton kids would like to play for John McDonald.”
A number of Red Wings players previously coached by McDonald have gone on to pro hockey including Zac Rinaldo, Peter LeBlanc, Spencer Abbott and Cameron Talbot
The Red Wings will hold a rookie camp at the Mohawk 4 Ice Centre at the end of April.