The Muskegon Lumberjacks today announced changes to their hockey operations staff, which includes naming NHL veteran Jim McKenzie as the Head Coach of the team for the remainder of the 2011-12 season. Kevin Patrick was relieved of his duties this morning.
“It was a difficult decision to make as Kevin helped build our organization when the Lumberjacks first became a part of the USHL,” said Lumberjacks Owner/CEO Josh Mervis, who will assume the club’s General Manager responsibilities. “The team was not having the results we needed and it was time to move in a new direction.”
The Lumberjacks have also added legendary coach Ron Mason as a senior advisor. Mason is the all-time winningest coach in NCAA history with 924 career victories he earned at three different schools – Lake Superior State University, Bowling Green State University, and a 23-year stint at Michigan State University. At MSU Mason’s teams made 21 appearances in the NCAA tournament and won a national title in 1986.
“We owe it to our fans and players to have the best product possible both on and off the ice, and the addition of Jim and Ron will give us the leadership we need to help the Lumberjacks achieve our ultimate goals,” Mervis said.
Lumberjacks assistant coaches Dave Noel-Bernier and Steve Palmer will remain on the staff. McKenzie will join the team Sunday, while Noel-Bernier will serve as Head Coach this weekend, as the Lumberjacks (9-14-2, 20 points) host Des Moines and Green Bay tonight and tomorrow at L.C. Walker Arena.
McKenzie played over 900 games at the NHL level over a 15-year career, collecting 100 points (48 G, 52 A) and 1,739 penalty minutes in 880 regular season games. The rugged left winger also appeared in 51 playoff games and was a member of the 2003 Stanley Cup champion New Jersey Devils.
McKenzie was selected by the Hartford Whalers in the fourth round (73rd overall) of the 1989 NHL Entry Draft. He made his NHL debut with the Whalers during the 1989-90 season and went on to play for eight other organizations during his NHL career. He retired after spending the 2003-04 season with the Nashville Predators.
Following his playing career, McKenzie has stayed close to the game of hockey, most recently holding a position with the National Hockey League Players Association (NHLPA).
(Nathan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)