Mooseheads get their man

WILLY PALOV -- Halifax Herald

, Last Updated: 12:35 PM ET

The Halifax Mooseheads wasted little time naming Shawn MacKenzie's replacement.

They announced on Wednesday that Al MacAdam will take over as the team's head coach, starting with tonight's game in Charlottetown against the P.E.I. Rocket. MacKenzie was fired on Tuesday.

"I think the players' reaction will be quite good," Mooseheads majority owner Bobby Smith said by telephone as he watched MacAdam run his first practice Wednesday in Charlottetown. "It's always an exciting time, but a bit of a nerve-wracking time when there are changes, but I think our players realize why we made this change. We've got a coach we've brought in to make our team and the individuals better.

"I spoke to the players this morning and Al has met with them and is running the practice right now and I think it will be good.

"As far as reaction of the fans - we've brought in a high level coach and they'll see the results as Al starts to put his imprint on the team," Smith said.

MacAdam, 52, is a native of Morell, P.E.I., and has a long coaching resume. He spent 11 years as the head coach of the St. Thomas Tommies of the AUHC before moving behind the bench for the AHL's St. John's Maple Leafs in 1997-98. After three seasons in St. John's, MacAdam took an assistant coaching position with the Chicago Blachkawks. He stayed with the Hawks until this year when the NHL lockout forced all of the league's coaches to the sidelines.

To keep himself in a hockey environment during the work stoppage, MacAdam served as an assistant coach with the UPEI Panthers.

"In this business you can change gears pretty quickly, as far as being in and out of it," MacAdam said. "I was able to work with Mike Kelly at UPEI and that kept me around the game. They prasticed every day and that was a really good move for me to do."

MacAdam also had an extensive playing career in the NHL, spending 12 seasons with Philadelphia, California, Cleveland and Minnesota. He had 240 goals and 591 points in 864 games and won the Stanley Cup in 1974 with the Flyers.

He was also Smith's linemate for several years with the Minnesota North Stars. They were teammates for five seasons before Smith was traded to the Montreal Canadiens in 1983.

"He was my first right winger when I started in the NHL in 1978," Smith said. "He's a very smart individual and he's also very intense. He's going to come across as calm, but I know from being in the dressing room with him during a playoff game that this is a guy that winning is very important to."

But Smith downplayed the notion that it was their friendship alone that led to MacAdam's hiring.

"I've got hundreds of ex-teammates and when I was in Phoenix (as general manager), I only had a couple of them ask to come and work with me," Smith said. "Al is a leader and I just thought he would be a natural for this position with his coaching experience. And it's also that I know what kind of person he is, as far as his leadership and his intelligence and his commitment. I think he's going to be great for these kids."

Neither Smith nor MacAdam said they remained in especially close contact over the years, but both said they maintained a certain respect for the other that dated back to their playing days. MacAdam expects to work closely with Smith as they try to mould the team together down the stretch and into the playoffs.

"He has perceived visions of what his team is all about and at this point, he feels I can bring it to a certain level," MacAdam said. "We're not daily friends or anything, but we always had a good relationship. He thinks I'm the guy so I'm here."

MacAdam attended the Mooseheads' game in Bathurst on Tuesday and likes what he sees so far.

"I like the mobility of our defence," MacAdam said. "I liked the way (goaltender Jason) Churchill played last night. I don't mind our forechecking. I think we'll try to develop a little more speed through the neutral zone.

"I think it's a good situation for me. Going down the stretch, we can maybe change the thinking a little bit and develop together. I believe I can do that."

Smith said MacAdam is locked up through the 2006-07 season, but said the deal isn't entirely an official contract.

"I expect him to be the coach here for the long term," Smith said. "I offered Al a two-and-a-half-year contract and he said, 'Hey, you know what, I don't need a written contract. Let's just talk about it at the end of the season.' "


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