By Andrew Miller
The Post and Courier
NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. – If Jared Bednar has learned anything in his brief stint as the head coach of the South Carolina Stingrays, it’s that there is no offseason.
Bednar, the Stingrays’ longtime assistant coach, was named the team’s fourth head coach in April and has spent most of the last three months recruiting players for the upcoming ECHL season.
“This is the prime recruiting season,” Bednar said. “You might get a little bit of a lull after the season is over. There are some budget things to work on and things like that, but when June and July roll around, that’s when you really start to hit the recruiting trail pretty hard. There’s no such thing as an offseason. This is a year-round job.”
Recruiting is nothing new to Bednar, who, as an assistant under Jason Fitzsimmons for the past five years, made more than his share of phone calls to prospective players.
“I’m a little deeper into the recruiting process this summer than I have been in the past,” Bednar said. “In the past I would focus on a smaller group of players. Last year, we had a lot of turnover on our team, but we also had some guys signed a little bit earlier than this summer.”
Bednar begins his days early, getting to the office by 8 a.m. He figures he spends between eight and 10 hours working the phones or the Internet, exchanging calls and e-mails with prospects, agents, coaches and general managers from across the hockey community.
“I’ll spend the first couple of hours looking at all the transactions from all the leagues,” Bednar said. “I want to make sure I know what’s going on across all the leagues. For the first month or so, I spent a lot of time gathering information on all the college kids and all the junior players. You can never gather enough information on those players.
“I’m still making calls on guys I did research on two months ago. I’m trying to get as much information on prospects as I can and that takes time.”
Bednar says he’s probably averaging more than 100 phone calls a week.
“It can get a little frustrating because one week I’ll make 100 calls and I’ll get one or two calls back,” Bednar said. “I’ll go a couple of days without getting anyone to return my calls and then I’ll get 20 messages the next day. I’ve been on kind of a roller-coaster ride the last few weeks. I’ll come home depressed one day because no one returned my calls or I didn’t sign someone. Then the next day, I’ll get a guy and then I’m pumped up again.
“It’s a lot of legwork and it’s not that much fun right now. But once I get a couple of players in and I see them and the team having success during the season, I’ll know all the hard work was worth it.”
Bednar hopes to bring in at least five or six rookies this season.
“We’ll have eight to 10 guys from last year’s team and five or six prospects from our affiliation,” Bednar said. “Then I want to bring in five or six first-year pros. Guys who are hungry and who want to get to the next level. I want to target those guys because they have the most potential to improve.”
“It’s a huge step in the right direction to get these two guys,” Bednar said. “Both of them bring so much to the table on and off the ice. I think they’re both certainly capable of having their most productive seasons.
“They both have an extremely good work ethic, and I think that’s what you need from your leaders. You want the leaders on your team to be the hardest workers, and Cail and Matt leave it all on the ice every night.”
MacLean, 30, was second on the team with 25 goals last season and ranked fourth in scoring with 58 points.
“Cail has a calming influence on the team,” Bednar said. “He’s a consummate professional in every sense of the word. Being without an assistant coach this season, I’m going to have to lean heavily on Cail’s leadership in the locker room.”
Reid, 29, is coming off the most productive goal-scoring season of his career. The former Clarkson University star led the team with 29 goals and was third in scoring with 60 points.
“Matt is a very emotional guy, he wears his heart on his sleeve,” Bednar said. “I thought he had a great season last year. He’s arguably been our MVP the last couple of years.”
This will be MacLean’s third season with South Carolina. In 106 games with the Stingrays, MacLean has 91 points on 42 goals and 49 assists.
“I know Jared and I trust him, so there was no hesitation signing with the Stingrays again,” MacLean said. “I know he’s going to do a great job of putting a team together. I know how hard he works. I’m really excited about coming back this season.”