Cotton Kings make change
McDonald heads to Scorpions for multiple-portfolio
By JASON COHEN
The Wichita Thunder is set to spend another season in the
cellar. The El Paso Buzzards and Fort Worth Brahmas have just
a dozen wins between them. The San Angelo Saints are coming
off a 1-15 skid.
So who's the first club in the CHL to make a coaching change?
The Lubbock Cotton Kings, one of the league's top teams.
In a whirlwind of activity that began when New Mexico Scorpions
owner Doug Frank took over the Corpus Christi IceRays, Cotton
Kings boss Bill McDonald made a shocking mid-season switch,
accepting Frank's offer to become Head Coach, Assistant General
Manager and Director of Hockey Operations for the Scorps.
The job came open because Frank wanted the sitting New Mexico
coach, Patrick Dunn, to become GM in Corpus (Al Sims remains
behind the bench there).
"McDonald has an opportunity to explore a career choice,
to expand his role in the hockey workforce, so we have granted
him a release of his contract,"
Lubbock general manager Mark Adams said.
Left unsaid: the fact that McDonald and Adams' relationship
was akin to Mike Keenan and Neil Smith's. But unlike the New
York Rangers, the Kings did not receive financial or player
compensation to void McDonald's contract, nor, apparently,
did Adams ask for any.
Assistant coach and former player Tracy Egeland steps into
the Lubbock job.
McDonald leaves the C-Kings with a record of 81-52-23 in
a little over two seasons. Long considered one of minor pro
hockey's top coaches, he won three championships for Thunder
Bay of the (pre-UHL) Colonial League and another with the
CHL's Fort Worth Fire.
He also guided the Fort Worth Brahmas and the Cotton Kings
to the Western Professional Hockey League finals in 1998 and
From 1998 to early 2000 McDonald coached the IHL Kalamazoo
K-Wings, at the time the Dallas Stars' top farm team. When
Jim Playfair replaced him in Michigan, McDonald finished the
season with the Stars, staying in Dallas though the 2000 Cup
"I never thought I'd be sitting here," McDonald
said Wednesday, during his first appearance on KNML "The
Sports Animals"'s weekly coach's show. "It was obviously
a strange deal, a whirlwind deal, but in this game, things
It was one of the toughest decisions I had to make."
"We're thrilled to have Bill McDonald join our organization,"
Doug Frank, who came to the IceRays' rescue on December 9,
said in a statement. "While the timing of these moves
is not what we would prefer as an organization, the situation
in Corpus Christi necessitated that we fill the role there
as soon as possible."
Previous Corpus owner William T. Davidson lost control of
the team for a variety of reasons, including a still-outstanding
lawsuit in which his minority partners charged financial improprieties.
Davidson was also late with player paychecks, and delinquent
in his league dues.
Davidson still owns the El Paso Buzzards, and while insiders
there predict a similar regime change, league spokesman Steve
Cherwonak said Tuesday that the Buzzards were "a member
in good standing." Later in the week Rick Kozuback, CEO
of the league's parent company Global Entertainment, told
the El Paso Times, "we definitely have issues there."
Pat Dunn was an Assistant G.M. for the IceRays before coming
to New Mexico, so Frank knew he was the guy to rebuild fan
goodwill and repair torn relationships. To symbolize a new
beginning, the team has changed its name to the Corpus Christi
The Cotton King players have vowed to rally around Egeland,
and say they hold no grudge towards "Macker."
"He told us what was presented to him, that he was contemplating
it very seriously," Kings defenseman James Sheehan told
the Lubbock "Avalanche-Journal." "He wanted
to know how we felt about it. We basically said we wish him
all the best. It's obviously not a lateral move for him, so
how can we hold him back? He's got aspirations like everybody
Still, it could be embarassing if McDonald leads the Scorps,
currently three points behind Lubbock in the Southwest Division
standings, to the playoffs at the Kings' expense.
"The eyebrows wouldn't be raised as high if I'd gone
to Tulsa, or Fort Worth," the coach acknowledged. "It'll
create a little intensity when . the Cotton 'Queens,' I'll
call 'em now -- come to New Mexico."