Scott Hillman, who led the Southern Professional Hockey League’s Knoxville Ice Bears to back-to-back championships the past two seasons, was named the new Independence team’s head coach at a Tuesday afternoon news conference at the Hilton Garden Inn.
Independence Pro Hockey might not have a nickname or roster of players, but it has a new head coach.
Scott Hillman, who led the Southern Professional Hockey League’s Knoxville Ice Bears to league championships the past two seasons, was named the head coach of Independence’s new Central Hockey League team at a Tuesday afternoon news conference at the Hilton Garden Inn in Independence.
Hillman won the Coffey Trophy for the regular-season points title and President’s Cup for winning the playoffs each of the past two years for the Ice Bears.
The 35-year-old native Canadian was a minor league defenseman for nine years, including eight seasons with the Odessa Jackalopes in the Central Hockey League.
He was a four-time all-star and the winner of the CHL’s Man of the Year Award in 2001-02.
“I grew up in the CHL, my heart is in the CHL,” Hillman said Tuesday. “I’d been contacted by many teams about a coaching position, but this was the only one I considered.”
Of the more than 200 applicants the Independence team received, Independence team president Brad Lund said one stood out above the rest.
“We wanted our guy,” Lund said, “and we got him. He is a special, special young man.”
Lund wasn’t the only member of the Independence team who raved about Hillman.
“We are so excited,” said Brent Thiessen, the team’s general manager. “You only have one opportunity to make a good first impression, and we think we’ve done that by hiring Scott.
“We were looking for someone who would make an impact on the ice, and off the ice – in the community. And we know that Scott will do that. He’s a proven winner, a family guy and a good community guy.
“We believe in him, and we know that he believes in us.”
Hillman called the Independence front office a “group of all-stars” as Lund and Thiessen have won numerous league honors in their storied CHL careers.
“These are the type of people you want to work with,” Hillman said. “We have the same philosophy. I want to win and they want to win. We’re starting this team with a clean slate, and we are going to bring players to Independence who will be exciting players on the ice and model citizens in the community.”
Hillman’s wife, Dalyn, was in Independence Monday house hunting with a local real estate agent. She attended the news conference with the couple’s 3-year-old son, Guhnar. They also have a 7-year-old son, Corbin.
“Scott wants to be a part of the community and a part of this organization,” Thiessen said. “Scott and our players will be the folks standing next to you in the line at the bank, sitting next to you at the table in your favorite restaurant or washing their car next to yours at the car wash.”
Page 2 of 2 - While Hillman was the marquee attraction at Tuesday’s news conference, the team has another proven winner in its new general manager.
Two years ago, Thiessen was the president of former CHL champion Arizona. Last year he was the director of marketing for the NHL’s Florida Panthers.
“This is just a great opportunity,” Thiessen said. “Independence is a great community, and we will be playing in a new facility with a very successful head coach.”
Thiessen said season ticket sales are “fantastic.”
“When you think that we have no team name, no players and no head coach – until today – it’s fantastic that we have sold as many tickets as we have,” said Thiessen, who had no specifics on the number of season tickets sold.
“We know that there might be some individuals who are not hockey fans right now, but all we ask is that they come to one game. We want this arena to be the Disneyland of the CHL. Once people come to a game, we are hoping that they will leave as fans and want to come back for more.”
The Independence team expects to announce its name later this month. The franchise will begin playing this fall at the new 5,800-seat Independence Events Center.