By Brian Compton
During a tremendous 11-year playing career that spanned 627 games and concluded with a Kelly Cup championship in 2006, Keith McCambridge was known as both a gritty and reliable stay-at-home defenseman.
If you needed him to kill a penalty, it was not a problem. If you needed him to drop the gloves and stick up for a teammate, he would gladly oblige. As each year passed, he gained more and more respect.
Two years removed from his last game on skates, McCambridge has been provided with the task of taking over for Davis Payne as head coach of the Alaska Aces. McCambridge, who won a championship under Payne in 2006, was the latter’s assistant this past season, when the Aces went 49-16-7 and reached the National Conference finals before falling to the Idaho Steelheads. Payne was named assistant coach of the Peoria Rivermen in the American Hockey League on May 24.
The 33-year-old could not be more excited about the opportunity presented to him and has been hard at work recruiting a team that will once again have the fans at Sullivan Arena roaring from the drop of the puck.
“Having a chance to play up there and then stepping in as an assistant coach, there’s a lot of loyalty on my side and on the ownership group’s side to continue on with the pride and what we’ve accomplished as one of the top organizations in the ECHL,” McCambridge said. “I’m definitely excited. I couldn’t have drawn it up any better with winning the Kelly Cup my last year. It was as easy a transition when it comes to when a player steps away from the game.”
McCambridge spent the majority of his career playing for successful coaches. Not only did he play for and work with Payne, but the Manitoba native spent the early part of his career playing for the likes of Randy Carlyle and Peter Laviolette, who coached the Anaheim Ducks and Carolina Hurricanes, respectively, to the Stanley Cup in the last two years.
“Right from the beginning, I always wanted to take things from every coach I’ve played for,” McCambridge said. “I’ve had the chance to play for a lot of different coaches, and I’ve taken a lot of different things that they’ve taught me or things that I liked that they presented to the players. I’ve known for quite a long time that this has been an ambition of mine.”