That didn’t last long.
Just a month after hitting the unemployment line, Mike Williamson returned to the WHL Tuesday as head coach of the Tri-City Americans.
Williamson, who was fired by the Calgary Hitmen in mid-April after five seasons as head coach, replaces Jim Hiller as the Tri-City bench boss. Hiller was canned by the Americans last Friday, and coincidentally held that post for five years.
“This has all happened pretty quick,” Williamson told Annie Fowler of the Tri-City Herald. “This has been a whirlwind the last couple of days. I am very excited about the opportunity. I want to thank (Americans GM) Bob (Tory) and the rest of the ownership group, trusting me with this challenge.
“My family and I are extremely excited to get back to the U.S. Division. I spent a number of years in Portland as a player and a coach. I met my wife (Michelle) there and started our family (daughter Leeah and son Nicholas). To have the opportunity to continue to coach in a very competitive division and closer to our roots is an awesome thing for us. I am excited to get to work.”
Tory insisted the hiring of Williamson wasn’t a knee-jerk reaction.
“A lot of thought went into making the change,” he told Fowler. “I learned a long time ago working for Ed Chynoweth that you need to have your ducks in a row. Before you make one move you have your mind made up where you are going. I was looking for a particular person to come in and do the job. It was a no-brainer on my part when Mike was available. Nothing against Jim, he did a good job coming in behind Don Nachbaur, but I felt a change was needed for where our team was going in the long term.
“Mike was a competitive player, a character player when he played. He has had success as a coach in the WHL. He is the next coach in the WHL closing in on 500 wins. Having that type of experience behind the bench is so important, particularly in this division, where it is so tough and the quality of coaching is so good.”
The Americans signed Williamson, who played with the RDC Kings for one season in the ‘80s, to a multi-year contract, reuniting the former WHL player with Tory, who helped bring him into the league in 1991.
“I’ve know him for quite some time,” Tory said. “I met him as a 17-year-old hockey player playing at Red Deer College. We recruited him to come play for the Portland Winterhawks. It didn’t take long for him to become captain of that team and helped that team rebuild under Ken Hodge and Brent Peterson and win a Western Conference championship.”
This season, the Hitmen finished tied for first in the Eastern Conference with the eventual league champion Edmonton Oil Kings, but were ousted by the underdog Kootenay Ice in the first playoff round. The early collapse undoubtedly led to Williamson’s dismissal.
Williamson has coached 888 WHL games with Portland and Calgary and has an overall record of 427-374-36-20 with 31 ties. He also has a 54-51 playoff record.
• Defenceman Mathew Dumba was part and parcel of the Portland Winterhawks’ second-period debacle Monday night at Veterans Memorial Coliseum.
The ‘Hawks coughed up four unanswered goals in the middle frame en route to a 4-2 loss to the Edmonton Oil Kings in Game 7 of the WHL championship series. But as Dumba — acquired by Portland from the Red Deer Rebels in December — noted, the ‘Hawks struggled halfway through basically every game in the series.
“We couldn’t really find a second period all series,” he told the Portland Oregonian. “A number of things went wrong for us (in Game 7), but they (Oil King) also played a great game. It’s not like we were playing a team we just should have destroyed.”
Dumba was drafted seventh overall by the Minnesota Wild in 2012 following his second season with the Rebels. He played a third season in Red Deer and when it became apparent that he would not be returned by the Wild last year, Rebels GM/head coach Brent Sutter dealt his WHL rights to the Winterhawks.
Dumba suited up with Canada in the world junior championship and was then reassigned by the Wild to Portland. To say he was somewhat of an unhappy camper at the time would be an under-statement.
“Honesty when I came back (to the WHL) I wasn’t very happy. I didn’t think it would provide me with the development I would get in the NHL,” he said. “Looking back, it helped me so much. It let me get back to my game and I learned so much from the guys and the coaches here. I felt it helped me a lot and it was the best year of my junior career.”
On the move: The Lethbridge Hurricanes and Moose Jaw Warriors swapped a pair of 18-year-old forwards Monday, both of whom were selected in the early proceedings of the 2011 bantam draft. Miles Warkentine was dealt from the Warriors to the ‘Canes in return for Kolten Olynek. They were selected 16th and 26th overall in 2011. Warkentine played 106 games over two seasons with the Warriors, scoring four goals and collecting 16 points, while Olynek had four goals and 12 points in 57 games last winter, his first full season in the WHL . . . The Saskatoon Blades and Spokane Chiefs recently completed two trades involving goaltenders. Two weeks ago, the Blades shipped veteran Alex Moodie to the Chiefs in return for a fourth-round pick in the 2016 bantam draft, and last week acquired Trevor Martin from Spokane for a 2015 seventh-round selection. Martin, 18, spent last season with the midget triple-A Leduc Oil Kings. The Ardrossan native went 9-4-1 with a 2.41 goals-against average and a .925 save percentage and had three shutouts. He was selected by Spokane in the ninth round of the 2011 draft and has appeared in four WHL preseason games.