Former Tommies’ player and coach Kyle McAllister has been appointed Fredericton Red Wings’ head coach, general manager and the director of Prospects Hockey Development.
“I’d like to build the program up to where we’re sustainable,” said McAllister, reflecting on the Red Wings’ shortened past two seasons. “We’re taking it kind of one week at a time right now and just seeing how things unfold.”
McAllister grew up in Ontario, where he launched his hockey career. After playing for five years in the Ontario Hockey League (OHL), he relocated to Fredericton to attend St. Thomas University, where he played for another five years.
He was 20 when he attended STU – the same year he bought a house in Fredericton, where he returns in between hockey seasons.
While playing for the now-retired Tommies men’s hockey team, McAllister attended various training camps throughout his junior year, preparing him for his next journey – playing professionally.
He moved to Fort Wayne, Indiana, joining the International Hockey League (IHL) for the final duration of their season. Afterward, he played two seasons with the Florida Everblades, followed by two seasons with the Mississippi Sea Wolves – two teams in the ECHL.
“I was going to keep playing, but my body was telling me a couple of different stories, so I didn’t [continue],” he said. “I had some injuries and I’ve had lots of surgeries. It was just time to stop.”
It was at this time when he decided to work a “regular job,” as McAllister referred to it, leading him back to New Brunswick.
Around a year later, he stepped back into the hockey world to assist former Tommies men’s head coach Mike Eagles and current women’s head coach Peter Murphy. McAllister worked with the women’s team for two years, following which he had the opportunity to become head coach of the men’s team alongside assistant coach Kevin Pottle.
McAllister quit his job and committed fully to the program and its regrowth.
“I knew taking over that year that the program was somewhat in jeopardy, but it was an opportunity for me to take a shot at it and see if I could keep it afloat and try to bring it back to where we were [when I played].”
But due to the budget and other factors, 2016 was the final Tommies men’s hockey season to date. McAllister said he felt if they had another year or two, the result could have been different.
“To be able to come full circle – to play there for five years and then start my coaching career back there again, it was something I’ll remember and it’s a great memory. I’m certainly thankful for it.”
After receiving many coaching offers, McAllister became the head coach for the South Shore Lumberjacks in Nova Scotia – the same league as the Red Wings. Before last season, his contract ended, leaving McAllister without a hockey-associated job.
When the Red Wings announced its open position, McAllister was still weighing his options. After helping out with a summer skate one evening, he received a call from the Red Wings team president, Roger Shannon, offering him a three-year contract.
McAllister said within 48 hours, it was a done deal.
Shannon was heavily involved with the University of New Brunswick’s hockey team while McAllister coached at STU.
“We’ve always known each other and there’s always been a good respect there, even during the rivalry at that time,” said McAllister. “I’ve always had a relationship with a lot of the guys within the Red Wings organization.”
He brought in Pottle as his assistant coach once again.
On top of being the head coach and general manager, McAllister is the director of Prospects Hockey and works alongside Global Center Ice, located in Florida. He described his jobs as “two separate roles under the same umbrella.”
Prospects Hockey runs various camps for individuals to improve their hockey skills. They hold programs where the junior Red Wings organize teams for a spring hockey circuit in the Maritimes and weeklong camps in the summer for youth.
He stresses the importance of recognizing that the game is continually changing.
“You have to adopt different strategies … keep things fresh, keep learning and keep up with the times,” he said. “You have to recognize what kind of team you have, what kind of personalities and characters you have within your group and make adjustments according to that.”
He said his style of coaching adapted and improved over the past five years, but for McAllister, this isn’t the end of his hockey journey yet. Through the connections within and outside the Red Wings organization, he’s hopeful for future opportunities.
“I obviously want to continue climbing the ladder,” he said. “But for now, I’m comfortable here and I’ll keep trying to win here, get better and see what comes down the road.”