DUBUQUE, Iowa — The Dubuque Fighting Saints are proud to announce that Kirk MacDonald has been officially named head coach. MacDonald will be the sixth head coach in the organization’s Tier I history, as he will succeed Greg Brown in the role. The 38-year-old former pro brings four full seasons of head coaching experience at the ECHL level to Dubuque, all with the Reading Royals, the AA affiliate of the Philadelphia Flyers.
“The reputation of the Dubuque Fighting Saints speaks for itself—with how good the organization is, an outstanding ownership group led by Brad Kwong, Kalle Larsson’s work finding good players, and their winning tradition,” MacDonald said. “This is a thrilling new challenge to get to coach some of the best junior-aged players in the world. It’s truly an exciting endeavor.”
“Kirk has been on our radar for some time. We really admire his competitiveness and his ability to connect with his players,” said Northern Lights Hockey, LLC Managing Partner Brad Kwong. “We think the fans in Dubuque will love the way his teams play the game.”
MacDonald was an assistant coach with Reading for the first three years of his pro coaching career, and then took the mantle of the head coaching job as an interim head coach to end the 2016–17 season. He was then tabbed with the official position of head coach and director of hockey operations from the start of the 2017–18 season onward. As a head coach, he led the Royals to a 158-86-34 regular season record. Most recently, the Royals finished first place in the North Division with a 45-17-9 record, and a +57 goal differential.
MacDonald coached former Fighting Saints Frank DiChiara, Nick Luukko, Shane Walsh, and Robbie Darrar during his time in Reading.
“I am coming to a place where winning is expected every year. There’s a high standard for everybody in the organization,” MacDonald added. “To me, that’s the most exciting part of the challenge—to come in here and keep things going. We want to develop people and players. Help each player improve and advance their careers while also maintaining a championship mindset every day.”
“Kirk’s thoughts on player development and consistency on the ice align well with ours. His teams in Reading were always well coached and his former players compliment him on his work ethic and game preparations,” said Kalle Larsson, Fighting Saints GM and President of Hockey Operations. “We feel that Kirk’s experience from various levels as a player and as a coach will benefit our players greatly.”
“We are excited to welcome Kirk and his family to Dubuque, and we are thrilled that he is the next head coach of the Dubuque Fighting Saints.”
His coaching career began immediately after retiring from pro hockey in 2013. MacDonald returned to his alma mater, Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute (R.P.I.) as an assistant coach for the 2013–14 season. There, he coached former Fighting Saints Luke Curadi and Milos Bubela.
As a player, Kirk MacDonald was a consistent source of offense, whether it was at the NCAA level at R.P.I., the ECHL level with the Florida Everblades or with Reading, and at the AHL level with the Albany River Rats, the Providence Bruins, the Iowa Chops and the Houston Aeros. In ten seasons as a professional hockey player, MacDonald scored 96 goals and 121 assists in 406 games.
The culmination of a long career came during the 2012–13 season, his final season as a pro, where he won the Kelly Cup with the Royals. During that run, he scored a shorthanded game-winning goal in a decisive Game 5 against the Cincinnati Cyclones that led the team to the final round to face off against the Stockton Thunder.
MacDonald prepped for his long pro career as a stalwart hockey player at R.P.I. His senior season saw him earn many accolades as captain of the team, including the 2007 Rensselaer Alumni Association Community Service Award, the USCHO.com Unsung Hero Award, R.P.I. Most Inspirational Award, be named a Coca-Cola Community All-American, and be a 2007 Hockey Humanitarian finalist and a Lowe’s Senior CLASS Award finalist. He scored 103 points in 137 games as a member of the Engineers.
MacDonald has been an outspoken advocate for cancer research and support as a cancer survivor himself. Through a grueling recovery from testicular cancer and a two month-long stay in the hospital back in 2005, he has been cancer-free since and has been a beacon of support in every community he has lived in for cancer-related causes. He represented the Royals at the Real Men Wear Pink event which benefitted the American Cancer Society of Berks County, and was a celebrity bartender to raise money for Hockey Fights Cancer and the American Cancer Society.
The native of Victoria, British Columbia, takes over a Fighting Saints team that has made the playoffs in every year of Tier I competition, and has put together a record of 413-222-73 since 2010. The Saints’ elite pedigree has elevated all of its coaches to the next level—something that MacDonald has taken notice of in taking the position.
“At the end of the day, we want to play with pace. We want to take away time and space. We want to get the puck back and keep it,” MacDonald said. “We want to force the other team to play at our pace and play against a skilled team where we possess the puck. We don’t want robots. We want players that will make a read and make a play.”
MacDonald will be in attendance to evaluate the future of the Fighting Saints at 2022 Main Camp, which will take part in Maryland Heights, Missouri at the Centene Community Ice Arena from June 14 through 17. The camp will culminate in the all-star game on June 17 at 10:00 a.m. CDT.