Sailors Announce GM, Coach

Seattle SailorsThe expansion Seattle Sailors have turned to a pair of colorful characters to guide them through their inaugural campaign.  Sailors owner Gary Blum held a press conference today to announce the hiring of Jay McKay as the team’s general manager and Stewart Corrigan as head coach.

“I’ve succeeded in business by hiring smart, capable people and get out of the way to let them do their thing,” said Blum.  “That’s the same model I’m applying in hockey.”

Jay McKay
Jay McKay

The 60-year-old McKay has ties to the Pacific Northwest, having starred with the WHL’s Seattle Totems and Portland Buckaroos during his playing days.  He’s been working front-office jobs for over 25 years, and he has been the architect of multiple minor-league championship teams over that time.  He has a reputation for being brash and outspoken, which has led to his changing jobs frequently.  But McKay’s reputation doesn’t bother Blum in the least.

“In tech at the elite level, there are a lot of big personalities,” said the Sailors owner.  “The same is true in sports.  You’re going to deal with big egos, guys who want to do things their way.  That’s fine by me.  As long as you deliver the goods, that’s what matters.”

For his part, McKay is looking forward to putting down roots in Seattle.  “I’ve lived out of a suitcase for most of my career,” he told reporters.  “I’ve passed through just about every two-bit hamlet in North America with a hockey barn.  But you get to a certain age, and you get sick of bouncing from town to town.  I hope I can stay here a long time and bring a lot of hardware to our fans.”

Stewart Corrigan
Stewart Corrigan

The 45-year-old Corrigan has spent much of his career as a junior league coach, most recently a five-year stint in Sault Ste. Marie.  He is well-known for his fiery and intense demeanor on the bench.  He earned the nickname “Popeye” due to his frequent bulging-eyes rants at referees, which often led to his ejection.

“I’m a heart-on-my-sleeve guy,” admitted Corrigan.  “I don’t believe in keeping things bottled up.  If I don’t agree with a call or I think my team’s getting lackadaisical, they’re going to hear about it.”

Off the ice, Corrigan is a noted wine aficionado.  He is part-owner of a Napa Valley vineyard, and his personal collection contains over 200 bottles of vintage wine.

“That’s my outlet for relaxation,” said Corrigan.  “A lot of times, I’ll give it to a ref or a player or an opposing coach, and the next day I’ll invite him over to share a bottle and light up a couple cigars and bury the hatchet.”

Blum made his high expectations for the Sailors clear in his press conference.  “A lot of times with an expansion team, you see years of futility and a slow building process to become good, if you’re lucky,” said the owner.  “That’s not going to happen here.  The people here in Seattle want to see a winner, and so do I.  I expect us to ramp up quickly and get to contention in the near term.  You’re not going to have to wait a decade to see the Sailors get good.”

McKay didn’t get into specifics about how he plans to build his team, saying that he’d “have to wait until we see what’s available in the expansion draft.”  The Sailors have the first pick in the entry draft, and are expectation to take high-scoring collegiate star Vince Mango.  McKay wouldn’t confirm that, but said, “A guy who’s got that kind of scoring touch would be a heck of a player to build around, no question.”

On a lighter note, Corrigan broke the reporters up with laughter when he implied that he’d chosen Seattle because he was fond of their uniforms: “Green has always been my favorite color.”

Michigan Hires Wright as Coach

Michigan Grey WolvesThe SHL coaching merry-go-round continues.  Last month, Martin Delorme left the Michigan Gray Wolves to become coach of the expansion Quebec Tigres.  Now, the Gray Wolves have now hired Hamilton Pistols head coach Ron Wright to replace Delorme.

“Needless to say, we’re thrilled,” said Michigan GM Tim Carrier.  “Martin obviously left big shoes to fill, but Ron is more than capable of filling them.  He’s the kind of experienced, smart, hard-working coach we’re looking for.  Ron Wright is a perfect fit with the Gray Wolves organization.”

Ron Wright
Ron Wright

The 62-year-old Wright has over 35 years of coaching experience, largely at the college level.  He is a defense-first coach, which makes him a good match with the Michigan roster.  At his introductory press conference on Friday, Wright seemed almost giddy about the chance to work with such a squad.

“Whenever we’d play against [the Gray Wolves], I’d just be fascinated,” said Wright.  “They were so tough, ferocious and disciplined at the same time, just something to behold.  I’d show my guys game film of them and I’d say, ‘We should be more like these guys.’  The idea that I’d be coaching these guys, the ones I’d held up as our model… I never even dreamed that.”

In addition to his reputation as a brilliant tactician, Wright is also known as a hard-nosed disciplinarian.  That latter quality led to multiple run-ins between the coach and his players in Hamilton, where he guided the Pistols to a 22-35-3 record last season.  There was also considerable friction between Wright and the Hamilton front office, and the coach was given permission to pursue other openings in the offseason.

“That was a tough situation all around,” admitted Wright.  “I could have done some things better; so could they.  My eyes are on the future and what we can achieve here in Michigan.”

The Gray Wolves started their inaugural season strong, bolting out to a 13-3-2 start.  But they were passed and ultimately beaten by the powerhouse Anchorage Igloos.  Despite finishing with the second-best record in the league, Michigan didn’t make it to the playoffs.  Given that Anchorage is strong on both ends of the ice, many observers figured that the Gray Wolves would need to become a more balanced team in order to contend.  Wright, however, said that he intends to double down on defense.

“This is a grind-it-out, hard-checking, hard-nosed team,” said Wright.  “Why mess with that identity?  We are who we are.  Who has a better defense than us?  Nobody.  Who has a better goalie than the Bear [Dirk Lundquist]?  Nobody.  That’s our foundation and our identity, and that’s what we’re going to build on.”

Igloos coach Sam Castor welcomed his new rival by sending a case of Vernor’s ginger ale to Wright with a note that read, “Welcome to the Wild West.  Look forward to beating you!  Warmest regards, Sam.”  Asked about Wright’s hiring, Castor smiled and said, “I love it!  Ron’s a great coach, and I’m sure he’ll do a great job.  If you’re going to be the best, you’ve got to beat the best.  Next year’s going to be fun.”

Pistols owner Cory Blackwood, Jr. wished Wright well, saying: “Ronnie’s got what we wanted, and I’m not going to begrudge that.  I expect we’ll be just fine next season.”

It’s not known who the Pistols are targeting as Wright’s replacement. Blackwood said only that he was looking for a coach who was “in it for the long haul.  I don’t want to be having to look for another guy next year.”