GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. – The Detroit Red Wings on Monday announced the hiring of Matt Macdonald (left) and Brad Tapper as assistant coaches for the Grand Rapids Griffins. Both served as head coaches in the ECHL last season and previously either played or coached with new Griffins head coach Ben Simon.
The duo’s addition completes the Griffins’ 2018-19 coaching staff, as assistant coach Mike Knuble, goaltending coach Brian Mahoney-Wilson and video coach Bill LeRoy will continue in their roles.
“Matt and Brad have both won championships as players and/or coaches at different levels, so they understand what it takes to have success and the work that is necessary to help our guys develop on a daily basis,” said Simon. “They also both have head coaching experience, which was very important for me in my first year as a head coach in this league, and they’ve had unique careers both as players and coaches to this point. I’m excited to work with them.
“Our staff will challenge and support each other and our players as we continue to give our team the best chance to succeed both as individuals and as an organization,” he added.
Macdonald, 35, spent the last six seasons behind the bench for the ECHL’s Cincinnati Cyclones, including the last four as head coach and director of hockey operations. He guided the Cyclones to a winning record during each of his four campaigns (2014-18) as the club’s head coach, totaling a 142-116-16-14 record (0.545) and two Kelly Cup Playoff appearances.
In 2017-18, Macdonald helped the Cyclones post a 39-30-3-0 regular season mark (0.563) – due in part to a power play that placed second on the circuit at 20.1% – before falling in five games to Fort Wayne in the postseason’s opening round. Macdonald mentored three Cyclones – defenseman Eric Knodel and forwards Justin Danforth and Jesse Schultz – to spots on the All-ECHL Second Team, while also seeing Danforth named to the All-Rookie Team.
During Macdonald’s two seasons as an assistant with the Cyclones from 2012-14, Cincinnati posted a combined 83-45-9-7 record (0.632) and advanced to the playoffs both years. In 2013-14, he served under Simon as the Cyclones advanced to the Kelly Cup Finals and Simon became only the second head coach in ECHL history to reach the championship series in his initial season.
“Matt has a great personality and work ethic that I have seen firsthand, working together in Cincinnati,” said Simon. “His greatest strengths are his communication skills, his ability to teach, and his ability to understand the players' perspective. He is very prepared and detailed with his approach to the game. He will be working with our defensemen this season, and he understands the importance of the development and growth of our young defensemen in Detroit's system.”
Prior to his coaching career, Macdonald played seven professional seasons as a defenseman from 2005-12. Appearing in 385 career games between the CHL (2005-06), ECHL (2006-09), AHL (2007-09), Italy (2009-10; 2011-12) and Denmark (2010-11), Macdonald combined for 133 points (30-103—133) and 601 penalty minutes. He won the Kelly Cup with Cincinnati in 2008.
A native of Niagara Falls, Ontario, Macdonald played college hockey at St. Lawrence University, where he tallied 30 points (14-16—30) and 131 PIM in 118 contests from 2001-05.
Macdonald and his wife, Erin, have two children, Hazel and Max.
In his first season as a professional head coach in 2017-18, Tapper, 40, guided the ECHL’s Adirondack Thunder to a 41-24-3-4 regular season record (0.618), a North Division title and an appearance in the Eastern Conference Finals. Forty-one wins tied for the fifth-most victories in franchise history and the Thunder finished fourth in the league in power play percentage at 19.1%.
Prior to joining Adirondack as head coach and director of hockey operations, Tapper spent the previous three seasons as an assistant in the AHL, serving the Chicago Wolves for two (2014-16) and the Rochester Americans for one (2016-17). He has totaled a 105-105-11-7 record (0.500) as an AHL assistant and helped Chicago reach the 2015 Calder Cup Playoffs.
A native of Scarborough, Ontario, Tapper began his pro coaching career as an assistant in the ECHL from 2010-14. During three seasons with the Florida Everblades from 2010-13, he helped the club post a 115-78-7-16 regular season record (0.586) and qualify three times for the Kelly Cup Playoffs. In the postseason, Florida tallied a 23-12 (0.657) record during that three-year stretch and won the Kelly Cup in 2012. While an assistant with the Orlando Solar Bears in 2013-14, the club recorded a 43-24-2-3 mark (0.632) and advanced to the playoffs.
“Brad has a tremendous passion for the game,” said Simon. “He embraces the skill aspect of the game and will be working with our forwards next season. He has an offensive mind that will help our forwards be creative with the puck and be responsible without it. Brad and I played together, so I know the type of person he is, the type of lessons he has learned throughout his career, and how he has used his unique experiences to teach the players he has coached.”
During a professional playing career as a forward that spanned nine seasons (2000-09) between the NHL, AHL, IHL and Germany, Tapper compiled 289 points (122-167—289) and 787 PIM in 435 games. He contributed 25 points (14-11—25) in 71 NHL games with the Atlanta Thrashers from 2000-03.
Tapper and Simon were teammates for back-to-back championships, as the duo helped Orlando hoist the IHL’s Turner Cup in 2001 before winning the Calder Cup with Chicago in 2002. Tapper and Simon also skated together as members of Iserlohn in Germany during the 2008-09 campaign.
A former college player, Tapper competed for Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute from 1997-2000 and tallied 116 points (65-51—116) in 106 games. He finished fourth in the NCAA with 31 goals as a junior in 1999-00 before turning pro.
Tapper and his wife, Alison, have two sons, Blake and Hudson, and a daughter, Addison.
The Griffins will begin the home portion of their 2018-19 season on Friday, Oct. 12 at Van Andel Arena with Opening Night Presented by Huntington Bank. Additional home dates confirmed by the American Hockey League include Dec. 31, Jan. 19, Jan. 26, Feb. 9 and Feb. 16.
Single-game tickets will go on sale to the public in September. Fans can secure their full-season, select-season or group ticket packages by calling (616) 774-4585 ext. 2 or visit griffinshockey.com for more information.