After a three-year, 236-game playing career with the Portland Winterhawks that ended in 1994, Mike Williamson returned one season later and became a member of the coaching staff. Then, midway through his fifth season as an assistant coach, he was promoted to the head coach position, where he remained until the end of the 2006-2007 season. All tolled, Williamson spent 16 years associated with hockey in Portland, Oregon.
In July of 2007, after a tumultuous, debacle-like season where off-ice distractions were commonplace among those in charge on the business side, Williamson left the organization. The team has since been sold and now ranks among the top two in the WHL standings.
The other team near the top of the heap is the Calgary Hitmen, who during this past off-season, hired Williamson as head coach. (Dave Lowry had moved on to coach in the Calgary Flames' system with the new AHL affiliate, the Abbottsford Heat.) While Williamson has inherited a roster with some high-end talent, a group that finished last season only two wins away from a Memorial Cup berth, he is relishing his return to the WHL.
With expectations always high in the Hitmen camp, Williamson has his charges off to a 12-4 start this season. We spoke with him prior to the game in Kelowna against the Rockets, a 4-1 loss. For many on the Calgary roster, the game was a rematch of last season's WHL Championship Final Series.