Ryan McGill was asked a simple, straight-forward question.
What was enticing about the Owen Sound Attack’s head coaching position?
His answer was right to the point.
“Dale DeGray, the person,” McGill said.
When encouraged to elaborate, McGill, who was officially hired by the OHL’s Attack on Tuesday along with assistant coach Derek King, heaped praise on his new boss.
“The more and more I talked to him, the more and more I just love his integrity for the game, his experience as a player and his experience as one of the top GMs in the Ontario Hockey League,” McGill said. “They’ve got a lot of good young players that, in the next couple of years, will develop into an unbelievable team.
“Having the opportunity to work with a guy like Dale will give me great experience. It’s something that I’m really looking forward to just because of his knowledge of the game. For me it’s just really, really refreshing.”
DeGray’s Attack finished 35-24-2-7, good for fifth in the Western Conference, before being ousted in the first round by Guelph in five games.
He was in the market for a new bench boss after Greg Ireland left for Germany’s pro Alder Mannheim on July 19.
He wound up replacing Ireland with McGill, one of the hottest coaching free agents in junior hockey since April when his contract was not renewed by the WHL’s Kootenay Ice.
McGill, 46, guided the Ice to a Memorial Cup championship in 2002 before embarking on a pro career. He was an AHL head coach before joining Brent Sutter’s staff with the Calgary Flames. He eventually returned to the Ice in 2012, made the playoffs in each of his three years and was an assistant coach of Canada’s 2014 world junior outfit.
“You’re always on the phone and you’re always listening to people and inquiring about things,” McGill said. “It’s no different than any other summer when you’re networking. It’s been hard to describe, but the summer’s been fine.
“I think the process of talking to a bunch of teams and talking to a bunch of people has been a great experience.”
Out of respect for DeGray, McGill refused to discuss any conversations he had with other teams.
When DeGray called, the two hit it off immediately. They did so despite having no pre-existing relationship.
Both shared a common bond of winning major-junior league titles as players – McGill in 1988 with the Medicine Hat Tigers and DeGray in 1983 with the Oshawa Generals.
They played nearly the same number of regular season NHL games. McGill, a defenceman, suited up in 151. DeGray, also a blueliner, dressed in 153.
“The only thing I knew about Dale was that his team (the Attack) had won the OHL championship in 2011,” McGill said. “But before that he was just a blue-collar hockey player. That’s how he is as a manager. He’s just awesome to talk to, great ideas hockey-wise, knows players and is an extremely hard worker. I think it’s going to be a great relationship.”
The one thing McGill has never done is coach in the OHL. He knows he has a bit more work to do to fully understand the league and its players.
After tying up some loose ends in Cranbrook, B.C., McGill plans on spending some time at his summer home in Montana watching video.
Whenever a clip ends, there is always the option to call DeGray and ask some questions – something McGill has every intention doing, just as he already has.
“I don’t think the transition is going to be that hard or difficult,” McGill said. “Knowing our players is going to be easy because we’ve had a lot of discussions over the last three or four days about our players anyways.
“Dale’s a detailed guy and he’s painted a pretty good picture for me already.”