The Birmingham Bulls announced their first major hire since joining the Southern Professional Hockey League, and it was a blast from the past. Jamey Hicks, the ECHL Bulls former leader in goals, assists, and points, was named the SPHL Bulls inaugural head coach in a press conference at the Pelham Civic Complex on Thursday afternoon.
Hicks played five seasons for the Bulls from the 1996-97 season through 2000-01, scoring 159 goals and 314 assists over 335 games. Hicks, a former team captain, also set Bulls season records with 75 assists in both the 1997-98 and 1998-99 campaigns. After retiring from hockey after the 2001-02 season, Hicks spent two seasons as an assistant coach with the OHL Saginaw Spirit under former Birmingham coach Dennis DesRosiers. Notable players coached by Hicks while with Saginaw include former Phoenix Coyotes grinder Paul Bissonette, Chris Thorburn of the Winnipeg Jets, and SPHL journeyman goaltender Mike Brown.
“From the changing of the rink, to getting players, and hiring staff; it’s a challenge I look forward to,” said Hicks, entering his first year as a head coach in professional hockey.
Acknowledging the 13-year drought of pro hockey in the Birmingham area, Hicks stated, “The hockey community is ready for this team and we’re ready to put a great product on the ice.” With owner (and former ECHL owner) Art Clarkson and former Bulls star Craig Lutes in attendance, Hicks stated, “Having the support from the past eras (of Bulls hockey) is very important to get this going.”
The announcement comes as a surprise to some fans, who expected former Columbus Cottonmouths coach Jerome Bechard as a consensus choice. Bechard became available after the Cottonmouths suspended operations for the 2017-18 season after attempts to sell the franchise before the end of the past season fell through.
Hicks’ first job in the daunting task of building an opening night roster from scratch is to pick their first six players in the franchise’s expansion draft. The Bulls will select six players from a player pool consisting of unprotected players on the other nine teams & the dormant Cottonmouths entire roster. After the draft, Hicks will be scouring the collegiate, junior, and professional ranks to fill out the team’s training camp roster.
The press conference, in its entirety, can be viewed here.