Williamson to lead Hitmen

WES GILBERTSON, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 8:48 AM ET

The Calgary Hitmen have filled their vacancy behind the bench.

The club has called a news conference for this afternoon, where it's expected they'll name former and longtime Portland Winter Hawks boss Mike Williamson as head coach.

The Hitmen have been searching for a new front man since Dave Lowry joined the NHL's Calgary Flames as an assistant coach last month.

Several reports indicate they've found a fit in Williamson, who has already logged more than a decade in the Western Hockey League's coaching ranks.

Neither Williamson nor Hitmen GM Kelly Kisio returned phone calls last night, but one of his former sidekicks predicted Williamson will be an instant hit at the Saddledome.

"This guy would do anything for you," said Troy Mick, who spent the 2000-01 WHL campaign as Williamson's assistant coach in Portland. "He's great with the players, he's great with the media and he's great with the fans. And more importantly, he's going to develop those players.

"I think Calgary got an absolute gem."

Williamson, 36, is no stranger to the WHL, although he'll be moving to a new organization after a lengthy stint in Portland.

He spent three seasons patrolling the Winter Hawks' blueline from 1991-94, notching 10 goals and 50 assists in 232 career outings.

After graduating from the junior ranks, Williamson stepped behind the bench at Portland's Rose Garden as an assistant coach, the same job he had when the team won the Memorial Cup in 1998. He was promoted to head coach midway through the 1999-2000 campaign and coached more than 500 games before being relieved of his duties in 2007.

Williamson hasn't coached for the past two seasons. He is co-chair of the Winter Hawks Alumni Association and is operations manager for a screen printing and embroidery company in Oregon.

Lowry guided the Hitmen to a franchise-record 122-point campiagn last season. Mick, a former head coach with the WHL's Tri-City Americans and the Kamloops Blazers, expects his friend to pick up where the former Flames captain left off.

"It's a result-oriented business, and Mike Williamson is a guy who will do whatever it takes to be successful," Mick said. "I know with the scouting staff that the Hitmen has and the players they turn out, I don't think Calgary is going to miss a beat with Mike Williamson coming in. I think he's just going to continue on with what Dave has done.

"You'll see great results."


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