Vancouver, BC – The Saint John Sea Dogs want to win the Memorial Cup when they host it next month. With that in mind, they parted with Head Coach Gordie Dwyer and hired perennial winner and UNB Reds Head Coach Gardiner MacDougall.
The Sea Dogs host the annual Canadian Hockey League Championship tournament and have an automatic berth. However, after being eliminated in the opening round of the QMJHL playoffs, the club relieved Dwyer of his duties.
MacDougall, who has led UNB to seven Univesity Cups in the last 22 seasons, takes over the Sea Dogs and will return to Fredericton after the tournament for the 2022-23 AUS U SPORTS season.
“I talked to my dean and asked permission from him, and I said to him, ‘I’m going to sleep on it,’ and I have two dogs, and every morning I go running with them at 6 a.m,” MacDougall said at a press conference. “Around 5:43 a.m., I texted my dean and said, ‘it’s a great day to be a Sea Dog.”
The Sea Dogs gave MacDougall a call after the team fell out of the first round in the playoffs to a lower-seeded team. Missing the killer instinct and ability to deal with the pressure of being a favourite, they reached out to MacDougall.
“We identified Gardiner as someone that is a winner, he’s been on the big stage, he’s the winningest hockey coach that is active in the country,” said Sea Dogs president Trevor Georgie to CBC. “The opportunity to get him here with our group, we couldn’t pass that up.”
For MacDougall, it gives him another chance to win a National Championship in 2022, after his UNB Reds were upset by the Toronto Metropolitan University Men’s Hockey Team in the University Cup quarter-finals.
Although losing in the U CUP first-round devastated MacDougall and the Reds program, it gives him the recent experience of rebounding from an upset, the same thing that the Sea Dogs will look for at the Memorial Cup.
In addition, the call to the CHL is just another accolade for MacDougall in the last year, after being named the Head Coach for Team Canada at the Lucerne 2021 FISU World University Games, which were cancelled due to COVID-19.
With the first games of the annual tournament not scheduled until June 20, MacDougall will lead practices with the Sea Dogs group before showcasing his brief stay with the Saint John squad at the tournament.
“Sometimes adversity can be your friend,” MacDougall told CBC. “I think we have to use the adversity as a stepping stone to become better and, you know, have the opportunity to recreate a foundation for the group.”
Cover Photo: U SPORTS