The Calgary Flames announced changes to their coaching staff earlier in the offseason. Former AHL Stockton Heat coach Cail MacLean was promoted to an assistant coach at the NHL level, leaving a vacancy for the head coaching role in Stockton. This week, the Flames welcomed Mitch Love to the organization as their new AHL head coach.
Normally, hires at any level below the NHL don’t matter all that much to the big club. However, the Flames have had a long history of promoting strong AHL coaches to their NHL coaching staff. Currently, two assistants in MacLean and Ryan Huska formerly head coached the Heat, but this trend goes back all the way to the ’80s. If Love is successful with the Heat, he too could find himself behind an NHL bench in a few years time.
Mitch Love’s background
Love was born June 15, 1984. At 37 years old, he’s one of the up and coming coaches in professional hockey and widely respected. The same could be said of Huska and MacLean when they were hired to lead the Heat.
Hailing from Quensel, BC, Love comes from a hockey family, with his father Harley Love working as a scout in the WHL for the Swift Current Broncos and Everett Silvertips from 2008 to 2015.
Mitch Love’s playing career
He doesn’t have a remarkable playing career, but Love did play in the WHL for six years, the AHL for five years, and the CHL (Central Hockey League) for one season as a defenseman.
Love started his junior career with the WHL’s Moose Jaw Warriors in the 1999–00 season, but only got into two games as a 15-year-old. He played two more seasons with the Warriors before being traded midseason to the Swift Current Broncos, where he played out that season and one more. Love finished off his WHL career with two more seasons with the Everett Silvertips and served as their captain in his final year. In all six of his WHL seasons, Love’s team qualified for the WHL playoffs.
The only personal accolade to his name in the WHL came in 2002–03 when he was the most penalized player in the league with 327 PIMs in just 70 games. Whether or not that’s a good thing is debatable, but it’s something Love can definitely mention at parties.
Following his six years in the Dub, Love went on to play for various other lower tier professional teams, many of which had incredible team names. He played for the AHL’s Lowell Lock Monsters, Albany River Rats, Lake Erie Monsters, Houston Aeros, and Peoria Rivermen; the ECHL’s Johnstown Chiefs; and the CHL’s Bossier-Shreveport Mudbugs.
An annual award given out by AHL teams, Love was named Man of the Year by Albany and Lake Erie for “his outstanding contributions to his local community and charitable organizations.”
All in all, Love played 320 games in the WHL, 278 in the AHL, four in the ECHL, and 43 in the CHL.
Because he’s only 37, Love has actually played alongside many current and former NHL players. He also missed playing with Mark Giordano by one year with Lowell; Love was there in 2005–06 and Giordano was there in 2004–05.
Mitch Love’s coaching career
Love immediately transitioned into coaching after retiring from playing. At just 27 years old, he began his coaching career as an assistant with the Everett Silvertips, a role he would hold for seven years. Over that time, the Silvertips held a cumulative record of 256-185-61 and made the playoffs every single year.
The Flames don’t have a ton of prospects that went through the Everett system, but Love did coach Dustin Wolf and Eetu Tuulola during his time there.
Following his stint as an assistant, Love took on his first head coaching job as the bench boss of the WHL’s Saskatoon Blades in the 2018–19 season at 34 years of age. Serving for three seasons, he coached the Blades to a dazzling 95-44-16 record, qualifying or on pace to make the playoffs in all three years (the WHL playoffs were cancelled last season due to covid). Love also coached the WHL all-stars in the Junior Super Series in 2019–20 where he first got the chance to coach Flames top prospect Connor Zary.
Internationally, Love has been involved in a coaching role with Hockey Canada since the 2015–16 season when he served as the head coach of Canada’s Team Gold at the U-17 development camp. Since then, he’s been involved with Canada’s U-18 team, the first time he got to coach Jakob Pelleiter, and the U-20. Most recently, Love served as an assistant on Canada’s World Junior team in 2020–21 that featured both Zary and Pelletier.
Love has won gold and silver medals with the WJC team in the past two years. Now, his ascent to the AHL will mark the the highest level he has coached at.
The rundown on Love
Everywhere Love has coached, he’s won. He doesn’t have any championships or hardware outside of international events, but his teams have done incredibly well and he has a winning record across the board. As a young up and coming coach with familiarity with some of the Flames’ best young prospects in Zary, Pelletier, and Wolf, this would a smart and intentional great hire.
Love takes over the AHL right as the Flames’ best young prospects are heading to Stockton too. Keep an eye out for Love going forward. If the past is any indication, he could be in line to be behind the Flames’ bench in just a few years.