Mike Williamson looked right at home Thursday, sporting shorts and flip-flops.
The Tri-City Americans coach has only been in town for a couple of weeks, but it didn’t take long for him and his family to realize they aren’t in Calgary, Alberta, anymore.
“The kids aren’t used to the heat,” Williamson said of his daughter, Leeah, 10, and son, Nick, 6. “They’ve been to the pool a lot.”
While it approached 90 degrees outside, there was a chill in the hallway outside the team dressing room. The Toyota Center crew has been busy installing the ice this week.
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“This is a good time of year,” Williamson said. “We enjoy time away from the rink and enjoy time with our family, but once the season gets closer, you get anxious to get going.”
Williamson, who was hired May 13 to replace Jim Hiller, is the 20th coach behind the Americans’ bench. He has spent the past few days with associate coach Brian Pellerin assessing the talent they have entering this season.
“Brian and I have been getting up to speed and watching video,” Williamson said. “We want to come in with an open mind. Everyone will have a clean slate. We will make our decisions based on training camp.”
While coaching the Calgary Hitmen the past five years, Williamson only saw the Americans once a year. He is trying to get a handle on their returning players. He has met forwards Taylor Vickerman and Beau McCue, who are helping Pellerin with hockey camps.
“Playing Tri-City just once a year, you don’t get a very good idea of what they have,” Williamson said. “(Goalie Eric) Comrie is well-known throughout the league, and (Evan) Sarthou is having a good summer. It’s nice to have depth and someone to push (Comrie) for ice time.”
Defensively, the Americans have five returning players, including captain Justin Hamonic, Parker Wotherspoon, Brandon Carlo, Josh Thrower and Riley Hillis.
Williamson coached Thrower in Calgary for a year and a half before he was sent to Tri-City for Connor Rankin at January’s trade deadline.
“We have five guys coming back, and that should be a strong part of our hockey team with their experience,” Williamson said. “Josh is in the same boat as everyone else, earning their ice time. I do know him better than the others, and I expect him to be a big part of that defense. They should make it tough most nights for other teams.”
Williamson and Pellerin worked together in Portland years ago, so it has been a good fit at Tri-City.
“We kept in touch over the years,” Williamson said. “He loves to coach. We share a lot of the same philosophies. He is open, but very demanding and firm. The players will find that out from the start.”
Another familiar face to Williamson is athletic trainer/equipment manager Innes Mackie.
“ ‘Inch’ has been around the game his whole life,” Williamson said. “He was in Portland when I was a player and a coach. It’s nice to have that familiarity with him.
“It’s nice to have people you enjoy being around and you have known for a while.”