Having switched from director of hockey operations to head coach, Scott McMillan now finds himself working with the Elmira Sugar Kings under no title at all.
McMillan stepped into the coaching position early last season following the quick departure of Rob Collins, who joined the OHL’s Guelph Storm. It was something of an interim move, as he notes the goal was to have assistant coach Corey Prang take on the job eventually. Now, Prang is the head coach, and hockey operations are being handled by Joe Armlinger, who stepped in when McMillan shifted to coaching.
“It was always our plan. I didn’t have any interest in coaching long-term, for sure. I really didn’t want to do it, but with Rob leaving – I think we first heard from Rob that it might be a possibility on a Wednesday, and then it was confirmed and he was gone on the Saturday – we had to move fast,” said McMillan, noting it didn’t seem fair to have a new coach come in just weeks into the season.
Normally, the transition would have been planned over a longer period of time, with a handoff between seasons.
“We were not prepared for it to happen over a three-day span in October. It’s really difficult to fill coaching vacancies at that time. The plan was always for Corey to take over, but we just felt like it was a really, really tough spot for a guy to step into in his first job ... under those circumstances.”
Title or not, McMillan says he and everyone else involved with the Kings is busy preparing for next season.
The recent rookie camp saw a good turnout, with many players in the area responding to the Kings’ efforts to recruit local talent.
“Our spring camp had, I think, the best turnout we’ve had in local players in a long, long time,” said McMillan.
The focus is on lining up the new roster. June 1 is the first day teams can sign players for next season, so the job will be getting commitments from players.
“It looks like we’ve got about 18 to 20 kids that we’re locked into or are locked into us. Getting those kids signed and officially on our roster will be kinda job-one for June.
“And then there’s two or three spots [still open],and we’re still either waiting to hear what happens with kids that are trying out in the OHL or looking to fill with maybe a kid coming in from out of town to go to school or something like that,” he explained.
Whatever the titles, the work remains building a team for the 2023-24 season.
“What our job titles are is less important than who’s stepping on the ice to take the opening face off in September.”