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Hitmen name Kraken assistant Paul McFarland head coach

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The Calgary Hitmen announced Thursday that Seattle Kraken assistant Paul McFarland will be their next head coach.

McFarland, 38, has a half-decade of major junior experience as an assistant coach, head coach and general manager, in addition to six seasons as an assistant coach in the NHL with the Florida Panthers, and Toronto Maple Leafs, and Kraken.

Prior to joining the Panthers organization, McFarland served as an assistant coach for two years with the Oshawa Generals of the OHL and three seasons as head coach of the Kingston Frontenacs.

“We’re extremely excited to introduce Paul to the Hitmen and Calgary Sports and Entertainment Corporation,” said Hitmen general manager Garry Davidson, in a media statement.

“Paul brings significant experience and knowledge from his past NHL and major junior positions,” Davidson added. “He will be a tremendous influence both on and off the ice for our team as we continue to grow and develop with the goal of a WHL and Memorial Cup Championship.”

Prior to launching his coaching career in 2012, McFarland played for three seasons with the Kitchener Rangers of the OHL, where he was part of the 2003 Memorial Cup-winning team. He also played for the Windsor Spitfires before moving on to play three seasons with the Acadia Axeman, where he was the captain of the men’s hockey team.

The university athletic department created the Paul McFarland Captain in the Community Award, which is given to a men’s hockey player who demonstrates leadership in the community as well as the classroom.

He said getting the offer to coach the Hitmen was too good an opportunity to give up.

"The biggest attraction is first of all the people that I'm going to be having a chance to work with," he said. "This is a young and exciting group of players that are on the upswing that I think are going to have a chance to grow here a lot over the next couple of years.

"And then the opportunity to be a head coach again, in a great city," he added.

Some of the Hitmen players were on hand for the announcement and McFarland had a message for them.

"For us, we want to try to build that team mindset where we together can do more than we could individually and so that is what we're going to focus on and build that type of culture with our group on a day-to-day basis," he said.

Having a new voice deliver a fresh message is never a bad thing, added Hitmen defenceman Carter Yakemchuk.

"I'm super excited," he said. "Just listening to him talk about all of the experience he has at the NHL level and the things he's going to do for our organization and our team, it's all super-exciting."

As for the style McFarland wants his team to play, expect it to be fast-paced.

"We're going to play a very fast game," he said. "That's the one thing you could say about our group when you come watch us play.

"We're going to be fast," he added. "Obviously we're going to be a team that's willing to play on the offensive side of the puck as much as possible and we're going to make sure that the competitiveness of our group and that playing together attitude shines through when you watch us play."

McFarland will be joined in Calgary by his wife Kelly and sons Cooper and Keaton.

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