Meet the new Sens boss

The new Ottawa Senators coach Paul MacLean talks to the media during a press conference Tuesday. ...

The new Ottawa Senators coach Paul MacLean talks to the media during a press conference Tuesday. (Tony Caldwell/QMI Agency)

BRUCE GARRIOCH, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 8:05 PM ET

While agreeing to be the coach of the Senators was the first order of business, Paul MacLean had another big item on his plate.

The 53-year-old MacLean and his wife Sharon set out to find a place to live.

Around the house hunt, MacLean had to squeeze in meetings with GM Bryan Murray and captain Daniel Alfredsson to get a better sense of what is going on in Sens Land.

MacLean returned to his summer home in Antigonish, N.S., for the weekend and will be on a plane Tuesday for Friday's NHL draft in Minneapolis. From there, he'll return to Ottawa for a development camp.

The MacLeans still have to clean out the place they've called home in Detroit for the last six years.

With so much on his plate, MacLean says he still has some down time. Mainly it's at night when he flips off the TV and does some reading.

"I have no trouble getting away from hockey," said MacLean. "I usually sleep pretty good at night. I usually can turn the TV off when I get things done. I like to get away and do some relaxing."

It's MacLean's lifetime in hockey that has brought him to Ottawa this spring. He was chosen by GM Bryan Murray from a crop of seven candidates.

The job won't be easy, but it's not much different than any other challenge MacLean has faced. Those who know him believe the Senators couldn't have found a better man.

"I had already gone through my search process for a coach (in 2000) and I was ready to hire someone else," said Howard Cornfield, the former owner, president and GM of the United Hockey League's Quad City Mallards in Iowa, a close friend of MacLean's.

"I got a call from (former Thrashers coach) John Anderson, (new Winnipeg GM) Kevin Cheveldayoff and Don Levin (Chicago Wolves owner) saying, 'You've got to interview this guy.' Do us a favour. So I brought in Paul and it was a phenomenal interview. I hired him on the spot, which I had never done before with any of my coaches."

What made him so phenomenal?

"He has a look to him and he looks you in the eye," said Cornfield. "It's hard to explain, but we came to call it 'The Grizz Look' as in grizzly bear. He looked you in the eye and you knew he was being very honest. He was speaking from the heart. He had incredible intensity and you walked away saying, 'This guy is serious.'

"When he came in and told me, 'I'm going to win you a championship,' you walked away knowing that this guy was going to do it."

The Mallards had a record of 112-27-9 (.787) in MacLean's two seasons behind the bench. They won the 2001 Colonial Cup championship and he became a folk hero in the Iowa community.

That's because Cornfield decided to make MacLean a major player in the club's marketing plan. They did a caricature of MacLean with 'The Grizz Look' and whenever the Mallards scored a goal 'The Grizz Look' would break into a big smile.

"The fans would go crazy. We called it, 'The Happy Mac,' " said Cornfield, now the managing director of Beacon Sports Properties. "You didn't see him smiling very often, but 'The Happy Mac' would break into a grin. The fans loved it. We sold T-shirts and pucks. It was huge for us."

When MacLean won his first Stanley Cup as an assistant coach with the Red Wings in 2008, he distributed The Happy Mac T-shirts in Antigonish.

MacLean never takes himself too seriously -- a contrast to former Senators coach Cory Clouston.

To get to where he is, MacLean has had to battle the odds. He was the last player chosen in the QMJHL draft before making the roster of the Hull Olympiques in 1977-78.

They had completed an in-game deal to send MacLean to the Quebec Remparts, but called it off by the time the buzzer sounded -- after he scored five goals. As a player, he was tough as nails and had a tremendous scoring touch.

"I remember that and they weren't going to be trading me to Quebec for Kevin Lowe, either," MacLean said with a smile.

MacLean has kept the same approach as a coach that he had as a player. He could score goals -- with 324 in 719 career NHL games -- but he wasn't afraid to drop the gloves against anybody, even Bob Probert.

"I did that," said MacLean. "It wasn't a good idea."

Picked up in a 1981 trade from the Blues by the late John Ferguson Sr., MacLean rode shotgun for Dale Hawerchuk with the Jets.

"Paul MacLean taught me a lesson," said former Winnipeg coach Tom Watt, a pro scout for the Leafs, who also had MacLean on Team Canada for the 1980 Winter Olympics in Lake Placid. "He could be a little feisty. He's got that Cape Breton aura about him. One night, we were down a goal and in the third period (and) we took two retaliation penalties. He took one and so did Morris Lukowich.

"I never tried to get at my players through the media, but for the first time I was upset because we had two chances on the power play and lost them both for retaliation penalties. I said to the media I wasn't happy with MacLean and Lukowich taking retaliation penalties.

"Well, the media all ran to MacLean and told him Tom said, 'Blah, blah, blah.' He said, 'Tom said that. Well, Tom can say whatever he likes because he's the boss.' That was a good lesson for me. I never chirped my players ever again in the media because he took me out of it."

Now, MacLean is The Boss in Ottawa.

"I'm a pretty patient guy," said MacLean. "I understand there are only 30 of these jobs available and there are a lot of guys out there that are just like me that think they have what it takes to be a head coach in the NHL.

"All they're doing is looking and waiting for an opportunity. The reality is: It doesn't always happen. I'm humbled to have the job because I've been in line before and never got that opportunity."

bruce.garrioch@sunmedia.ca


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