By Andrew Miller
The Post and Courier
NORTH CHARLESTON, S.C. – South Carolina Stingray Cail MacLean has always thought he would like to be a coach one day. He just didn’t think that day would come this soon.
MacLean, a veteran right winger, missed almost all of November and December with a deep thigh bruise that eventually required emergency surgery to repair.
To keep his mind occupied and to help the team, MacLean spent more than a month working as a quasi-assistant coach for the Stingrays.
“I think one day, after my career is over, I’d like to end up in coaching,” MacLean said. “I had a good time doing it. I like to teach the game and I learned a lot about coaching when I was on the bench. You definitely see the game differently as a coach.”
MacLean said he gained a new perspective on the game.
“I think the main thing now is that I understand a coach’s viewpoint a little bit better,” MacLean said. “You see things on the ice and you wonder why a guy would do that or why a guy is out of position, but things happen so fast on the ice that it’s hard to react as quickly as you’d like. So, I think this experience has taught me to be a little more respectful of what the coaches are saying because they see the game a little bit differently.”
MacLean missed nearly two months of the season after suffering a deep thigh bruise in the Stingrays’ home opener against Columbia when he collided with an Inferno defenseman going for a loose puck. MacLean continued to play and scored a power play goal, but could barely skate by the end of the game.
“I knew something was wrong almost immediately,” MacLean said. “It felt like someone had shot me in my leg.”
Later that night, MacLean’s thigh continue to swell and eventually he called the team doctors. He was rushed to the hospital to have surgery to relieve the pressure from the swelling.
“The pain was pretty intense,” MacLean said.
MacLean was on crutches for almost a month. “It was really frustrating because I’d never had an injury that had kept me out of the lineup for this long,” he said. “We were kind of struggling as a team, so I wanted to be on the ice helping out.”
MacLean did help, said Stingrays coach Jason Fitzsimmons.
“Cail has a wealth of knowledge and experience when it comes to hockey and we wanted to tap that knowledge and experience as a coaching staff,” Fitzsimmons said. “He’s played for a lot of different coaches, so I’m always interested to hear other philosophies. There’s no question that Cail helped. He was another set of eyes on the ice. He was also a calming influence on the bench. I tend to get pretty emotional when I’m on the bench, so it was nice to have someone who didn’t get as excited as me.”
MacLean returned to the ice after Christmas, but it has taken the former Trenton Titan a while to get back into game shape.
“The first couple of games back were frustrating because I didn’t have my timing down,” MacLean said. “I was surprised how long it took me to feel comfortable again out there. I was surprised at how rusty I was. My motor skills were terrible the first couple of games, but that has gotten better the more I have played.”
MacLean has been put on the same line with Ty Morris and Ryan Finnerty. “We definitely didn’t have a great start together, but I think we’ve come together in the last couple of games,” MacLean said. “We’re not putting up the kind of points we want to, but we’re starting to make things happen.”