Ethan Hayes has been announced as the Gillette Wild’s new head coach and general manager for the 2020-21 North American Tier III Hockey League (NA3HL) season.
Hayes, 30, is currently an assistant coach with the Great Falls Americans, a team in the same division as the Wild: the Frontier Division. He will finish the season with the Americans and take over for the Wild in the 2020-21 season.
“I’m excited about everything. It’s a big opportunity for me, and I just couldn’t be more excited to come down there and try to be successful,” Hayes said.
Though he is not currently coaching the team, Hayes is already beginning to recruit players for next season’s Wild team, he said.
He played high school hockey in Wisconsin and then played two years of junior hockey.
“The thing that excited us the most about him is his proven track record over the last few years in recruiting players,” Wild managing partner Dwayne Dillinger said. “He’s recruited quite a few of the players that played at Great Falls over the last couple years. (He) spends the offseason in Minnesota working a lot of camps with high school and junior-aged players.”
Current Wild head coach Taylor Shaw, who stepped in after the firing of Steve Kruk in December, is expected to be hired for the assistant coach position next season, Hayes said.
“He wants to stay on the staff and he wants to keep doing his job, and he’s excited about it,” Hayes said. “I don’t know him that well yet, but he’s a good guy and we have a lot of the same interests outside of hockey as well, so I think it’s going to be a good thing.”
There have been three signings announced by the Wild for the 2020-21 season already in Michigan defenseman Trenton Cleveland, California goalie Liam Scott and Minnesota goalie Connor Sullivan.
The Wild started out this season 10-1, before going 6-19 in the last 25 games.
Gillette missed the playoffs last season for the first time in their nine-year history. The team is fighting to stay at fourth in the Frontier Division with a 16-20 record so it can make the playoffs. The Yellowstone Quake are threatening to take that last spot in the playoffs with a 14-19 record.
The top four teams in each NA3HL division go to the playoffs. In the Frontier Division, the Sheridan Hawks (30-6), Bozeman Icedogs (29-6) and Great Falls Americans (26-5) have already secured the top three spots.
“(Hayes)’s been involved with one of the top teams in the division now for a couple of years, so we’re hoping that he brings that kind of atmosphere and attitude to the organization,” Dillinger said. “Next year’s our 10th year anniversary, so you’re always excited when you’re bringing a new coach in, and hopefully he’s going to get us where we need to be.”