Bloomington, IL – Friday afternoon, the Bloomington Thunder announced, in collaboration with the North American Hockey League’s Amarillo Bulls, that former National Hockey League forward Mike Watt has been named the new assistant coach of the Thunder. Coach Watt fills the position of former Assistant Coach Harry Mahood who stepped down from the position one week ago due to family medical developments.
Watt, 39, remains inside of the CSH International family after the 2014-15 season in Amarillo. Prior to joining the Bulls, Watt spent five seasons as a high school hockey coach with Arrowhead High in Wisconsin and scouted for the United States Hockey League’s Muskegon Lumberjacks during the ‘12-13 season.
“My wife and kids have been through this before and are fantastic. Making the adjustment and a quick turnaround is something we have done on a few occasions,” said Watt who will make his first appearance on an USHL bench at the Thunder’s Home Opener on Friday, Sept. 25. “I’m excited and thankful to be joining the Bloomington Thunder with Coach Williams. It’s a great opportunity for me and I’m very grateful for the opportunity to continue working within CSH International. I’m the type of person that enjoys challenges and moving on. Within CSH there is some mobility to move upward, so I’m really looking forward to joining the Thunder.”
The Seaforth, Ontario native was drafted 32nd overall in the 1994 NHL Entry Draft by the Edmonton Oilers. Over parts of five seasons with the Oilers, New York Islanders, Nashville Predators, and Carolina Hurricanes, Watt played in 157 NHL games.
“Mike did a great job for us and we will miss him, but we’re glad he’s still apart of our family,” said Bulls Vice-President and General Manager Rick Matchett. “He has a lot of knowledge and desire and will help Bloomington have success.”
Watt appeared at the Thunder’s main camp and was able to man a bench for some of the game action. Although unaware at the time, he was meeting some of his new players for the first time. “Having that familiarity to their game and style of play is very important for me. My main goal when I got into coaching was to develop the players and I love being on the ice and showing them little things they may not have been taught before that I’ve learned at the pro level. With my experience as a player, I’ll be able to give them some insight and perspective on what to expect at the next level.”
After playing junior hockey for the Stratford Cullitons and the ’94 Draft, he spent three seasons with the Michigan State University Spartans in the CCHA. Over 115 games, Watt scored 98 points (53g, 45a), ranking second and third on the team in points during the ’95-96 and ’96-97 seasons respectively. He also served as an assistant captain in his final season with the Spartans.
Head Coach and General Manager of the Thunder Dennis Williams has a lasting heritage with Watt and now is been reconnected with Watt after decades apart. “I’ve known Mike for about 25 years, we’re from the same neck of the woods. He played with my older brother Dave and we both played on the same junior team for a few games,” commented Williams. The Stratford, Ontario native went on to play at Bowling Green State University, who also play in the CCHA conference.
“When he joined Amarillo we talked quite a bit last summer and with the opening here in Bloomington, to get a coach of Mike’s caliber, knowledge, and wealth of experience is fantastic. He will know how to best service our players because he is a guy who has been to Division-I and the National Hockey League, which is where all our guys want to play.”
Overall, Watt has played in over 650 professional hockey games and was a member of the Canadian World Junior team on two separate occasions, winning gold in ’95-96. All three seasons of his attendance at Michigan State, the Spartans earned a bid into the NCAA national tournament.
“It just goes to show the strength of CSH International that we are able to bring someone up from within,” continued Williams. “That is what our business is all about, promoting our members to higher levels. In this case it worked out great that Mike is able to make the jump from Amarillo up to Bloomington.”
The Amarillo Bulls 6th season faces off Saturday, Sept. 12 at the Budweiser Bull Pen in the Amarillo Civic Center when they host the Odessa Jackalopes at 7 pm. Come mark the 20th consecutive year of Hockey In the Texas Panhandle by purchasing or renewing Full or Half Season Tickets as well as 10-Game Flex Packs. The Bulls offer a wide variety of payment options and plans and the perks of being a Season Ticket holder are terrific. For further information, please call the Bulls Office at 806-242-1122 or visit 301 South Polk in the Amarillo Building.