The 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.”
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.”
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.”