Heat tab MacLean as assistant coach

Cail MacLean is a newcomer to the Abbotsford Heat, but he already boasts strong ties to the local American Hockey League franchise.

Cail MacLean is a newcomer to the Abbotsford Heat, but he already boasts strong ties to the local American Hockey League franchise.

MacLean, named a Heat assistant coach on Thursday morning following two seasons at the helm of the ECHL’s South Carolina Stingrays, played for current Abbotsford head coach Troy Ward more than a decade ago. MacLean captained a Ward-coached Trenton Titans squad to the ECHL Kelly Cup final in 2000-01.

MacLean also served as an assistant coach under Jared Bednar, a former Heat assistant, with the Stingrays prior to taking on the top job in 2009.

It’s a small (hockey) world, after all.

“I’ve always known Cale to be a first-class teacher, and he’s a first-class man,” Ward told The News. “He’ll be an asset, not only to the Abbotsford Heat, but to the Abbotsford community.”

Ward said the plan is to hire one more assistant coach and possibly a goalie coach. He’s not sure at this point what specific responsibilities MacLean will handle until he fills out the staff. He does intend for the two assistant coaches to be viewed as equals on the depth chart – a contrast to the past two seasons, when Bednar (2009-10) and then Ward (2010-11) served in more of a primary role under former bench boss Jim Playfair, with Steve O’Rourke in a secondary position.

“Once we name the other guy, we’ll sit down and figure out how we’ll manage the team,” Ward said.

MacLean, 34, led the Stingrays to a 78-48-18 record over his two years as head coach. The Middleton, Nova Scotia native played 11 seasons of pro hockey in the ECHL, AHL and International Hockey League.