The Dubuque Fighting Saints have found a new leader. The team announced today that Matt Shaw has been named the club’s new Head Coach and General Manager. Shaw, 47, brings over 20 years of coaching experience to the Fighting Saints, and succeeds Jim Montgomery, becoming the team’s second head coach since the club’s return to the USHL in 2010. Shaw will arrive in Dubuque next week and be introduced at a press conference on Tuesday, June 4, at Noon at the Mystique Community Ice Center.
“I am very excited to join the Fighting Saints,” said Shaw. “In a short time, Dubuque has become a premier member of the USHL. You want to go to a place with a chance for success. The Fighting Saints ownership and management have shown they have that in place. With my past experience, I have been to all levels of hockey, but one area I think I can improve upon is my head coaching experience. I look forward to this challenge and am excited to get started.”
The Phoenix, Arizona native comes to Dubuque from the NHL’s New Jersey Devils where he spent the 2012-13 season as an assistant coach. His vast coaching experience includes spending the last six seasons in the NHL, working as a video coach with Minnesota in 2007-08 before joining the Wild staff as an assistant coach in 2008-09. Shaw served in the same role with the San Jose Sharks from 2009-12 before joining the Devils last season.
“Jim Montgomery had great success during his time with the Dubuque Fighting Saints and for that reason, he has left big shoes to fill,” said Brad Kwong, Managing Partner of Northern Lights Hockey, LLC. “However, it is exactly that success that put Dubuque on the hockey map and has enabled us to attract a coaching talent like Matt Shaw. Matt’s varied experience in NCAA hockey, the minor leagues and at the highest level of hockey, the NHL, is what made him the strongest candidate. His development and evolution as a coach and his vision of how he wants his teams to play were honed while working with some of the finest coaches in the NHL. Matt has worked with elite athletes, NHL stars, experience we believe will be integral in the development of every single player that dons the Dubuque Fighting Saints jersey.”
No stranger to the Tri-State area, Shaw enjoyed two stints as a coach with the Quad City Mallards, first serving as an assistant coach from 1995-97, and helping lead the team to 1997 Colonial Cup. After spending a year as the head coach of the ECHL’s Mobile Mystics in 1997-98 and working as an assistant coach for the IHL’s Chicago Wolves the following year, Shaw returned to the Mallards as the club’s head coach in 1999-00 and guided them to a 53-16-0 record, and a berth in the UHL Finals.
The following season Shaw joined the Houston Aeros of the IHL. Shaw was the club’s assistant coach for seven seasons, including their final year in the IHL in 2000-01. The team moved to the AHL in 2001, and became the primarily affiliate of the Minnesota Wild. Shaw helped guide the Aeros to the 2003 Calder Cup Championship, and worked four seasons under current San Jose Sharks Head Coach Todd McLellan. With the Aeros, Shaw also served as the team’s assistant general manager.
In addition to professional experience, Shaw has also spent time in the USHL and NCAA. As a player, Shaw skated in two seasons for the Sioux City Musketeers in the 1980’s, then advanced to the NCAA where he spent three seasons playing for United States International University before skating for one season at Colorado College. With the Tigers, the defenseman was an All-WCHA Honorable Mention honoree in 1988-89 during his lone season at Colorado College. Following his playing career, Shaw remained in Colorado Springs, starting his coaching career in 1989 with his alma matter as an assistant coach. He would spend three seasons behind the bench with Colorado College.
Shaw and his wife Caroline have two children, daughter Clare, and son Hayden, who spent last season playing defense at Woodbury High School in Minnesota and was a sixth round selection of the Waterloo Black Hawks in Phase II of the 2013 USHL Entry Draft.
Shaw takes over for Jim Montgomery who was named the head coach at the University of Denver on April 15. In three seasons, Montgomery guided the Fighting Saints to Clark Cup Championships in 2011 and 2013, and helped Dubuque claim the Anderson Cup this past season, leading the Fighting Saints to a franchise best 45-11-8 record. While Montgomery has advanced to the NCAA, he helped with the hiring process, has spoken with Shaw, and believes the Fighting Saints new coach will be able to continue the success already achieved.
“I was flattered to be part of the process,” said Montgomery. “No matter what, I am a ‘Saint for Life.’ Next year, I want to look at standings and see the Fighting Saints on top and continuing the success we had, so I wanted to help anyway I could. I had an hour-long conversation with Matt Shaw on Sunday evening. We had a great conversation about hockey. It was clear he was articulate and intelligent, and understood how he wanted the Fighting Saints to grow as a team, and how he wanted to develop the players as young men. I think he will be great and bring a really exciting brand of hockey that will thrill fans for years to come.”
Shaw is well aware of the challenges presented by following up a coach that had the success Montgomery did, but he embraces it, and plans to use Montgomery to help continue the winning tradition.
“Jim Montgomery did a great job and put forth a great support system,” Shaw said. “I have big shoes to fill for sure, and I’ll have my work cut out for me, but I am looking forward to continuing that success. Jim will be my biggest resource moving forward. Once we both get some things settled, we will get together and talk more about the area, the team, and the league.”
The Fighting Saints Try-Out Camp opens Wednesday, June 5, with on-ice sessions slated to start Thursday, June 6. Shaw, along with Associate Head Coach Joe Coombs and Assistant Coach and Director of Scouting Mike Field, will oversee the camp. A full camp schedule and roster will be released next week.
(Nathan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)