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Bonner resigns, MacGregor back as Blazers GM

By Gregg Drinnan
October 13, 2015 5:53 P.M.
Stu MacGregor. (Screengrab, oilers.nhl.com)

The Kamloops Blazers went back to the future again on Tuesday with the hiring of Stu MacGregor as vice-president and general manager.

MacGregor, who was the WHL team’s general manager in the late 1990s, replaces Craig Bonner, who resigned and now is on the professional scouting staff of the NHL’s Dallas Stars.

The Blazers announced the change in an afternoon news release.

MacGregor, who scouted out of Edmonton for the Kamloops Jr. Oilers in the early 1980s, has lived in Kamloops since 1991. The Blazers promoted him to assistant general manager and director of player personnel in 1991. He took over as general manager following the firing of Bob Brown shortly after the Blazers had won the 1995 Memorial Cup at what was then Riverside Coliseum.

While MacGregor was in the front office (1984-95), the Blazers won six WHL titles and three Memorial Cups.

He stepped down as general manager after the 1997-98 season to take a scouting job with the NHL’s Dallas Stars. He was part of a Stanley Cup winner there in 1999.

MacGregor spent 17 seasons as an NHL scout, most recently with the Edmonton Oilers. He was the Oilers’ director of amateur scouting from 2008 until being dismissed earlier this year.

“I am honoured to be joining the Kamloops Blazers organization,” MacGregor said in a news release. “This franchise is one of the most storied and successful organizations in the Canadian Hockey League. I am excited to get started.”

MacGregor is most familiar with Don Hay, the Blazers’ head coach. Hay, a Kamloops native, was an assistant coach with the Blazers from 1986-92 and then spent three seasons as head coach, twice winning the Memorial Cup.

“We are thrilled to have Stu join our organization at this time,” majority owner Tom Gaglardi said in the news release. “We believe his experience and knowledge will benefit our club, and his long association with our head coach, Don Hay, creates an incredible tandem of leadership for the Kamloops Blazers.”

Bonner played for the Blazers (1989-93) and also was an assistant coach (1997-2001) before he moved to Vancouver to work as an assistant coach with the Giants. He was hired as the Blazers general manager on April 22, 2008.

The Blazers had undergone an ownership change prior to the 2007-08 season, with the Kamloops Blazers Sports Society having sold the franchise to a group headed by Gaglardi, a Vancouver-based businessman who has since purchased Dallas’s NHL franchise. The Blazers’ ownership group also features ex-Blazers players Shane Doan, Jarome Iginla, Mark Recchi and Darryl Sydor.

They fired Dean Clark, the general manager and head coach, on Nov. 7, 2007, but didn’t fill the GM’s spot until hiring Bonner.

In Bonner’s seven seasons as general manager, the Blazers went 257-274-19-26, winning more than 33 games on only two occasions.

In two seasons, 2011-12 and 2012-13, they went 47-20-2-3, losing out to the Portland Winterhawks in the Western Conference final in the latter season.

In 2011-12, they were eliminated in the second round. In each of Bonner’s first four seasons as GM, the Blazers were first-round losers.

During his run as GM, the Blazers went through a number of head coaches.

Bonner hired Barry Smith to replace Greg Hawgood prior to the 2008-09 season. Smith was fired 17 games into 2009-10, with then-assistant coaches Scott Ferguson and Geoff Smith taking over. They ran the team for 10 games before giving way to Guy Charron, who finished that season and stayed for three more before he stepped aside and associate coach Dave Hunchak was promoted prior to 2013-14.

That season, the Blazers won a franchise-low 14 games as they worked to rebuild after the two 47-victory seasons. Hunchak disappeared early in January, with Charron coming back to finish the season.

Then, over the summer of 2014, the Giants let Hay out of the last year of his contract to allow him to return to his hometown and step back in as the Blazers’ head coach.

Bonner had worked as an assistant coach under Hay in Vancouver, with the Giants enjoying success in winning one WHL title, reaching the final in another season and winning the 2007 Memorial Cup as the host team.

But with Bonner as the general manager and Hay the coach in Kamloops, the magic didn’t return. The Blazers struggled to a 28-37-4-3 record last season, missing the playoffs for a second straight season.

The Blazers went into Tuesday night’s game with the visiting Red Deer Rebels having lost their first six games, the longest season-opening skid in the franchise’s 35 years.

Attendance also has hit the skids. The crowd at the home-opener (3,937) was the second-smallest first-game attendance in the facility’s 23-year history. Since then, the Blazers have played two more home games, drawing 3,195 and 3,474 fans, the second- and eighth-smallest regular-season crowds in the building’s history.

J Birk says:
October 15, 2015 12:31pm

I thought it strange when it was reported Bonner thought it unnecessary to have Hay at the recent bantam draft. Maybe a rift there.

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Don Larsen says:
October 14, 2015 09:23pm

This is very interesting. I am also an ex-Blazer (off-ice) and when Don Hay rejoined the team I emailed the Blazers office (with the thought that Tom Gaglardi would read it) and said they should replace Bonner with Stu. Craig Bonner emailed me back a snotty email. I am now happy that the change has happened. Finally I can be a Blazer fan again. Don Larsen


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