PENSACOLA, Fla. – The Pensacola Ice Flyers have announced their new assistant coach and the name is familiar to the team’s fans. Former Ice Flyers goalie turned local shark fisherman and occasional emergency backup goalie John McLean is the team’s new assistant coach. McLean will be joining head coach Rod Aldoff’s staff.

McLean replaces former Ice Flyers defenseman turned assistant coach Jeremy Gates who moves up to the ECHL as an assistant coach with the Rapid City Rush. After Gates left, Ice Flyers owner Greg Harris told The Sin Bin that the team would name a new assistant coach in the “next couple of weeks.” Harris didn’t tip his hand further, but his words proved to be accurate as this announcement came on Sept. 23, less than two weeks after the Gates announcement.

Harris and Aldoff were not caught off guard by Gates’ departure. Harris has always stated he wants the Ice Flyers to be a breeding ground for success down the road for anyone who passes through the organization. Like Harris, Aldoff fully supports any member of the team looking to move up the ladder, whether via a player call-up or through the coaching ranks.

With his move behind the bench, McLean is not jumping in completely blind. McLean has been working with youth hockey goalies in Pensacola and back home in Minnesota for years in both one-on-one sessions and camp settings.

“I’ve been around hockey all of my life. I haven’t just played the game, but I have been a student of the game during my entire career. My exposure to countless coaches, clinics, hockey camps, and teams will be the experience I will draw on to become an effective coach at this level.” McLean continued, “. The challenge will be that I saw the game from a different angle than I will be seeing it as a coach. As a former goalie I reacted to the game as it came to me in game situations. Part of my preparation as a goalie was to study film and learn to anticipate how to react to players based on their tendencies. As a coach, film study and player anticipation will remain in my arsenal.”

McLean’s primary focus will be on the goalies and running the defense, but he will assist Aldoff with practice and various other duties throughout the season. McLean stated that while the defense and goalies will be his focus, he will help any and every player that he can.

“I will do whatever I can to help every player play at their full potential. I will be working with Rod so that together we make this team strong and successful,” said McLean. “I am excited for this new opportunity.”

McLean played under coach Aldoff not only with the Ice Flyers but also in Junior hockey with the Wisconsin Wilderness of the Superior International Junior Hockey League. That familiarity will likely ease McLean’s transition as he is clearly extremely familiar with the systems that Aldoff runs.

“I learned more from Rod than any other coach I had. I know that it will be the same with coaching,” said McLean. “We have spent a lot of time together on the ice and we read each other pretty well. Our familiarity will be a definite asset as I transition to an assistant coach. We will not have to waste any time trying to figure each other out. We get each other and know how to get on the same page. I learned a lot from Rod as a player, and I am excited to have that same opportunity to learn from him as coach.”

McLean is excited to be back around the game he loves so much. After his premature retirement due to injuries, McLean was devastated.

“Transitioning out of hockey was one of the hardest things I have ever done in my life. Hockey was my passion, my focus, and my future for as long as I can remember. Leaving the game because of injuries was overwhelming. When I walked out of the locker room for the last time, I didn’t think I would ever return. If you had told me then that someday I would be coaching professional hockey I would never have believed you.

“To say I am thankful for this opportunity is an understatement. I am so excited to be back around hockey and to be back with this organization and its incredible fan base.”

Follow Geoff Nichols on Twitter at @SinBinIceFlyers.